One confirmed dead after contracting West Nile


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Mahoning County resident has died from encephalitis after contracting West Nile Virus.

According to a Friday news release from the Mahoning County District Board of Health, the 66-year-old woman died Thursday after being hospitalized with Lacrosse Encephalitis brought on by the virus. This type of encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain, occurs when someone is bitten by an infected mosquito.

However, it is not yet confirmed if the woman died from West Nile or from another complication.

“It will take us a while to establish the connection between the cause of death and the virus itself,” said Dr. John Venglarcik, medical director for the Mahoning County District Board of Health.

He said it is up to the family to release that information.

There are three prevalent mosquito-borne viruses that cause encephalitis in Ohio: Lacrosse Encephalitis, usually an infection in young children, and St. Louis Encephalitis and West Nile Encephalitis, which are often more serious diseases that affect older adults.

Venglarcik said symptoms depend on age.

“A younger person may have no symptoms at all. An older individual may start with flu-like symptoms and be left with a polio-like complication,” Venglarcik said.

He said it’s similar to paralysis, but tends to go away over time.

Approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus do not show any symptoms at all, but there is no way to know in advance if an illness with develop. Those who do develop symptoms usually do so between three to 14 days after they are bitten by the infected mosquito. Early symptoms may include nausea, fever, vomiting, and headache, the release stated.

“As mosquitoes are still active at this time of year, everyone should remain vigilant and take all reasonable precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites and eliminate breeding sites,” said Patricia Sweeney, health commissioner of the Mahoning County District Board of Health.

There were 24 cases of West Nile Virus reported in the state in 2013 with 881 cases reported since 1999. Click here to view to the data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Tips to avoid possible infection from mosquito bites:

  • If you are outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, be sure to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks.
  • Light colors are least attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Use insect repellent and follow the label directions.

Tips to eliminate mosquito breeding sites near your home:

  • Remove water-holding containers, such as tin cans and unused flower pots.
  • Eliminate standing water.
  • Make sure all roof gutters are properly draining and clean.
  • Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

For complete information for the Ohio Department of Health, click here.

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