St. Louis man contracts West Nile

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | 1:48 p.m. CDT; updated 3:53 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

ST. LOUIS — A 40-year-old St. Louis County man has contracted the first human case of West Nile virus in Missouri this year, health authorities said Tuesday.

The man, from the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton, spent a couple of days in the hospital and was released.

His report of flu-like symptoms, typical of West Nile virus, prompted doctors to pursue the possibility he had the potentially lethal disease.

People contract it after being bitten by an infected mosquito, the county said.

Last year, the state recorded 62 cases of West Nile virus and five deaths. In 2005, 30 cases and three deaths were reported.

The cases start to emerge around this time in the summer.

“We really start to see them in August and September,” said Karen Yates, Missouri’s vector-borne disease program coordinator.

St. Louis and Jefferson counties in eastern Missouri have been finding mosquitoes that test positive for West Nile and have been spraying accordingly, she said.

One of the best ways to protect against West Nile virus at home is to eliminate any mosquito-breeding habitat, such as tires and clutter in the yard that hold water.

Residents don’t need to stay inside, but they should use insect repellant, with one of two active ingredients — DEET or Picaridin. Both are safe and effective, Yates said.

Mosquitoes get the virus from infected birds.

Health officials say avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent exposure. Some tips include:

• Remove standing water, as well as tires and buckets that hold water.

• Change water and clean birdbaths weekly.

• Don’t allow water to accumulate in pool covers.

• Unclog gutters and down spouts

• Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks

• Use insect repellents when outdoors.

• Avoid outdoor activities in the early morning and late evening, when mosquitoes are most active.

• Make sure door and window screens fit tightly.

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