October 31, 2012

Maine confirms first-ever case of West Nile Virus

The Cumberland County man is recovering at home after being hospitalized for a disease now in 48 states.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A 34-year-old man from Cumberland County who was hospitalized in October has been confirmed as the first person known to contract the West Nile virus in Maine, state health officials said Wednesday.

The man, who suffered from encephalitis and meningitis as a result of the virus, has been released from the hospital and is recovering well, said officials, who would not disclose the man's name or hometown. They did not know how long he had been in the hospital.

Alaska and Hawaii are now the only states that haven't reported a case of West Nile virus. Each of the other 48 states reported at least one case this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 4,891 cases so far in 2012, which included 223 deaths through the end of October, are the most reported since 2003, according to the federal CDC.

More than a quarter of the cases this year have been in Texas, where 1,665 people have been diagnosed with West Nile virus and 75 have died.

State epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears said Wednesday that federal health officials had confirmed within the past day that blood and cerebral spinal fluid samples taken from the Cumberland County man tested positive for West Nile.

He said no other people in Maine are suspected to have the disease.

A vacationer from Pennsylvania was diagnosed with the West Nile disease in Maine about two months ago, but that person felt sick before arriving in the state and likely contracted the virus in Pennsylvania, officials said.

The Cumberland County man had not recently left the state, said Sears.

Seven mosquito pools in the state -- five in Cumberland County and two in York County -- contained mosquito larvae that tested positive for West Nile virus in August and September, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release Wednesday.

The pools were located in Biddeford, Scarborough, Gorham, Lebanon and Standish, according to the department.

Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, said state health officials were "kind of expecting" there would be a human case of West Nile this year, given the prevalence of infected mosquitoes in Maine.

Still, she said, "It kind of disappoints us -- not what we wanted to hear."

Because there has not been a hard frost in southern Maine this fall, mosquitoes are still around and "there's still a risk," said Sears.

Pinette advised people to empty standing water from pots or tire swings and to fix screens on doors and windows.

"Just be aware that it's out there," she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

lbridgers@pressherald.com

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