- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

A 55-year-old man who lives in the District has contracted the West Nile virus, the D.C. Department of Health announced late yesterday.
Health officials said the man is in the hospital and has been characterized as a high-risk patient with a severely compromised immune system. It is the first confirmed human case of the disease in the metropolitan area.
"West Nile virus is here," James A. Buford, acting director of the D.C. Department of Health, said at a news conference early yesterday before the first case was confirmed.
Mr. Buford told reporters that tests of 21 other residents suspected of having contracted the disease have turned out negative.
"We have successfully determined where the disease is concentrated in the District and, based on that data, will effectively protect our citizens," he said.
Forty mosquito pools across the District have tested positive for West Nile virus in the past 10 weeks, prompting health officials to step up efforts to control the spread of the fatal disease.
Mr. Buford said health officials are stepping up the city's larvicide program to kill mosquitos before they reach the adult stage, when they are able to carry the virus.
A mosquito pool consists of about 25 mosquitos collected and identified by species and tested for the virus.
D.C. health authorities said 26 virus-positive pools have been found at Fort McNair in Southwest, 11 in Rock Creek Park in Northwest, two at the U.S. Soldiers' Home in Northwest and one in the 3100 block of Connecticut Avenue NW.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from birds to humans and other animals, especially horses. Officials advised residents and businesses yesterday to eliminate pools of water, as mosquitoes tend to breed there, or treat the water bodies with larvicide.
Five persons in Louisiana have died from the virus, and 88 persons have been infected nationwide this year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Health officials in Illinois reported on Tuesday the first known human case of West Nile virus in the state. A 22-year-old student from Maryland who had spent eight weeks in Illinois suffered minor symptoms and has recovered.
City health officials have stressed that humans face a low risk of contracting the virus.
The D.C. Department of Health has arranged for testing of dead crows, blue jays, hawks and eagles. More crows die from the virus compared with any of the other bird species that have tested positive.
Sixty-one birds, including a crow found on the White House lawns, have tested positive here. Most died in Northwest, and on Monday, health officials stopped testing dead birds found in ZIP codes 20007, 20008, 20011 and 20016 in Northwest, where at least 20 birds tested positive.
More than 100 birds either are being held for testing or have results pending.
The department is encouraging residents in other ZIP codes to call 202/535-2323 to report the location of dead birds and to dispose of the bodies themselves or call the Department of Public Works at 202/727-1000.
Some city residents said yesterday that they are not satisfied with the efforts of the D.C. Department of Health.
Capitol Hill resident Lisa McCormack, 47, said she reported a dead bird in her yard yesterday and requested pickup for testing at 7:30 a.m. She said a department representative told her pickup was not possible because the schedule was full.
"He told me to put the bird in my refrigerator and wait until tomorrow," Mrs. McCormack said.
Young people bitten by infected mosquitoes may suffer mild fever, headache, muscle aches and flulike symptoms.
Elderly people and the very young are most vulnerable. Without a drug or vaccine to treat West Nile virus, patients can experience potentially fatal brain swelling.
More severe symptoms include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions and paralysis.
The virus was first discovered in North America in the summer of 1999 in New York City and has been moving west since. The New York outbreak caused seven deaths and sickened 55 persons. The virus was named in 1937, when a woman from the West Nile section of Uganda was found to have a disease never before diagnosed.
From 1999 through 2001, West Nile virus sickened 149 persons and killed 18, according to the CDC.
Brian DeBose contributed to this report.

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