- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

Maryland, Ohio and Missouri yesterday joined the list of places reporting suspected human cases of the West Nile virus, which has killed nine persons in Louisiana and Mississippi in an outbreak that has spanned a dozen states.

An 80-year-old Baltimore man shown by preliminary tests to have West Nile virus has returned home from the hospital and is "doing well," officials with the Baltimore City Health Department said this week. Maryland health officials said they are 95 percent sure the man, who suffered inflammation of the brain last month, was the state's first human case of the virus this year.

Doctors continue to stress that younger persons in good health face a very low risk of getting the virus and that even if they do contract it, few will realize they have it.

"The older you are the more likely you are to develop severe West Nile disease," said Dr. Lyle Peterson, of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Four residents of the St. Louis metropolitan area tested positive for the virus this week: two men ages 42 and 61 and two 36-year-old women, according to the St. Louis County Department of Health. In Ohio, tests on a 25-year-old Columbus man and a 76-year-old Cleveland woman showed indications of the virus, although officials are awaiting final lab results for confirmation.

Dr. Andrew Mayrer, who treated the Baltimore victim at the city's Sinai Hospital, said the man was admitted to the emergency room on Aug. 1 with a temperature of 100.5 degrees. "Other than being 80 years old and the recipient of a heart attack and stroke about 10 years ago, he appeared to be a pretty healthy guy," Dr. Mayrer said.

Dr. Mayrer said the man had begun feeling sick after going for a long walk in extreme heat on or about July 28. He was taken in by relatives for a few days before arriving at Sinai.

The man has since recovered and returned to his home in the Druid Hill area of Baltimore, about a mile from the home of John C. Wood the elderly man who last year was the first confirmed case of West Nile virus in Maryland history.

Mr. Wood survived an initial bout with the virus but died nine months later from neurological problems attributed to brain damage caused by the virus.

Thirteen batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus in Maryland this year, including four in Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday. In all, 129 infected birds have been found in the state.

In the District, health officials have said a 55-year-old man from Northwest, who was confirmed to have the virus last week, remains in serious condition at the National Institutes of Health Hospital in Bethesda. Doctors have said the man had leukemia before he got West Nile and his condition, coupled with his chemotherapy treatments, made him less able to fend off the virus.

Health officials across the metropolitan area largely have conceded that the virus is here to stay.

It was first discovered in North America in the summer of 1999 in New York City, where it killed seven persons and sickened 55 others.

This year in the District, 61 birds have tested positive, including a crow found on the White House grounds.

In Arlington County, where 51 birds and seven mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus, health officials this week said they no longer will be sending dead birds to the Virginia Department of Health for testing.

"To continue to test birds all it tells you is that [the virus] is here and we know that it's here," said Arlington County spokesman Dick Bridges.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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