The man died on June 9, according to Charla Baker, administrator of the Laclede County Health Department, and the cause was attributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “probably West Nile virus infection.”
Laclede County also had one death attributed to West Nile last year, according to The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ website. Of the 29 cases reported in Missouri in 2013, Lawrence and Dent counties also each reported one infection. There were two deaths in Missouri last year; the second in St. Louis County, according to DSS.
The recent death and the 2013 case in Laclede County do not appear to be related, Baker said, but the department “is mindful of the importance of education and prevention in these matters” and is contending with the usual number of mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses that come in at this time of year.
West Nile is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquito bites, the CDC says. The insects become infected when they feed on infected birds and can then spread the virus to humans and other animals.
DSS says most people infected with West Nile virus do not experience symptoms. About 20 percent of infected people show symptoms including fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches. In rare instances the virus can infect the human nervous system, causing diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent the infection, according to the CDC. Missouri’s health department says the virus is found in wild birds and was first documented in North America in 1999. It was first described in Africa in the 1930s.
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