- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2012

The D.C. Department of Health on Thursday confirmed the city’s first death this year from West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection that is causing alarm across the United States.

Health officials identified the person who died from the infection as a “senior, male resident.” It is the city’s second confirmed case of the virus; the department reported a separate infection weeks ago. The person involved in the initial case was hospitalized and then released, a department spokeswoman said.

“While seniors and children are most vulnerable, it is important to remember that West Nile virus is a life-threatening disease that has the potential to affect all residents,” the Health Department said in a news release.

Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on birds with high levels of the virus in their blood. They pass on the virus by biting humans and animals.

Humans who are infected by the virus may show no signs of it or experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle pains, rashes or swollen lymph nodes.

Officials encourage residents to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and long pants when they go outdoors to protect themselves from infection.

Nearly 2,000 cases of the virus, including 87 deaths, had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year.

Forty-eight states have reported infections in people, birds or mosquitoes. Maryland has reported one death, Virginia none, according to the CDC.

Texas has reported 45 percent of the West Nile virus cases in the country, with 35 deaths and a notable outbreak in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Unlike its Texas counterparts, the District does not spray for mosquitoes “and has not done so in the past 20 years,” the Health Department said last month.

The District cannot spray larvicide or adulticide on federally owned property and the pesticide spray can trigger asthma or other respiratory conditions, requiring residents to stay indoors for hours after the application.

Residents are advised to eliminate standing water in areas such as gutters and bird baths, where mosquitoes can thrive.

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