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Man Is 1st in Ventura County to Get W. Nile

August 14, 2004|Arianne Aryanpur | Times Staff Writer

A 32-year-old man has become the first person in Ventura County to contract the West Nile virus, health officials said Friday.

West Nile was suspected when the man visited a local hospital emergency room the first week of August because he was experiencing fever, muscle aches and other symptoms associated with the virus, said Kim Kandarian, a county public health information officer.

The patient, whose identity was withheld, was later diagnosed with aseptic meningitis, an infection of the central nervous system that is usually benign, she said.

The man, who lives in Kern County but works in Ventura County during the week, was treated for his symptoms and sent home, Kandarian said. He continues to improve and is expected to return to work in a few days.

"He's actually doing very well," she said.

In recent weeks, nine dead birds and one horse in Ventura County have tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus. Officials said they expected more infections as the disease spreads across the state.

"Once we had dead birds in the county, we knew it would only be time before someone got infected," Kandarian said.

So far this year, 168 human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in California and five people have died of the disease. Most West Nile fatalities in the state have been elderly people with other health problems.

People contract West Nile from mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds. About 20% of those infected feel flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches and rash. About one in 150 develops encephalitis or meningitis, and less than 1% of those infected die from the illness.

Health officials encourage people to eliminate standing pools of water where mosquitoes that carry the virus breed, to put up screens on doors and windows and to avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk. They also advise wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and applying bug repellent when outside.

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