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DHS news release

Nov. 21, 2006

 

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Susan Allan, M.D., 971-673-1282

 

Oregon records first West Nile virus death




An Eastern Oregon resident has died of West Nile virus, Oregon's state public health director announced today.

 

It is the first such death in Oregon. Out of respect for the family's request for privacy, health officials are not releasing detailed information except to say that the individual had other severe medical problems.


"We are sorry for the family and friends," said Susan Allan, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., state health director in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division. "Most cases of West Nile virus infection are mild, but for someone whose health is already fragile, the infection can be too much."


Allan said there is little danger of additional cases of West Nile virus occurring this year, because the onset of colder temperatures in fall and winter has reduced mosquito activity.


"West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes," said Allan, "and with the onset of the fall and leading into the winter, mosquito activity is at a minimum. It is always important for people to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, and this is particularly a concern beginning in the spring."


While the disease was slow in coming to Oregon, noted Allan, it now appears to be established in most areas of the state.


West Nile virus was first detected in Oregon in 2004, when five cases were reported to public health authorities. This year 70 cases were recorded, an increase from eight cases in 2005. If Oregon follows the pattern experienced by other states, noted Allan, there likely will be an increased number of cases next year, with the numbers of cases in following years decreasing to a chronic level.


Most people with West Nile virus have no illness or experience only mild symptoms. About 20 percent of cases result in a flu-like illness, but in one out of 150 cases the virus can cause inflammation of the brain and result in serious illness or even death.