The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health announced today two human cases of West Nile Virus in one male and one female resident of Shelby County. The TDH Laboratory in Nashville confirmed positive results for WNV. The individuals became infected in early August and were admitted to local hospitals where they have been treated and are recovering.
The confirmation of the latest human cases to date follows the identification of high numbers of Culex mosquitoes in the Shelby County area, along with many pools of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus. Currently, this makes six cases of WNV in Tennessee; with five in Shelby County. The Centers for Disease and Prevention has reported 1,174 human cases nationwide, with 29 deaths as of September 7, 2004. No deaths reported in Tennessee as of this time.
Humans catch the disease through being bitten by infected mosquitoes. The virus is not transmitted to humans directly through birds or from humans or other animals. Although the virus can occasionally cause encephalitis (severe disease), most human infections are mild, resulting in fever, headache and body aches that last only a few days. Symptoms of encephalitis ( inflammation of the brain ) include a high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma or convulsions. Encephalitis associated with the WNV is rare, but it does occur, and persons over age 50 are at greater risk.