W. Nile is not related to death

Woman had virus, but state says she died from other illnesses

September 10, 2001|By Michael Scarcella | Michael Scarcella,SUN STAFF

The second Marylander to be diagnosed with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus died during the weekend at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center from causes unrelated to the virus, the hospital announced yesterday.

The 63-year-old patient - a Baltimore County woman under treatment for other, unspecified medical problems when the virus was detected - had been reported "awake and improving" as late as Friday night, according to Arlene H. Stephenson, deputy secretary for public health services with the state health department.

"But her situation changed," Stephenson said yesterday evening, declining to elaborate. "She was being treated for what she was admitted for. West Nile was secondary to that."[Her doctors] determined, during the course of treatment, symptoms that indicated she should be tested for West Nile," she said.

Stephenson said the blood and cerebro-spinal fluid tests conducted late Thursday and Friday confirmed that the woman, a resident of Eastpoint, had contracted West Nile virus.

The woman, whose name and address have not been made public, was the state's second person to test positive for the virus. City health officials announced Thursday that a 72-year-old man from the city's Druid Hill area had been admitted to Sinai Hospital on Aug. 22, and that subsequent tests had revealed his illness, encephalitis, was caused by West Nile.

A nursing supervisor said last night that the man was in critical condition. "He does react to pain, but he's not alert. He's in a light coma," she said.

The Eastpoint woman was unconscious and suffering from seizures when admitted to Bayview in late August, Stephenson said.

P. Susan Davis, the hospital's spokeswoman, declined to give the date the woman was admitted.

In announcing the death, she would not discuss the cause or whether the presence of the West Nile virus was deemed a factor in the deterioration of her condition.

The woman's family asked, when she was admitted, that Bayview not release details regarding her condition, Davis said.

"She was an ill woman," Davis noted. "It put her at risk for West Nile."

Stephenson said, "She died from a pre-existing condition. It was not due to West Nile." She added that most people exposed to West Nile would not display its flulike symptoms.

Those at risk for developing greater complications from the virus - including coma and paralysis - are senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems.

The state's agriculture department plans spraying to kill mosquitoes tonight in Druid Hill and tomorrow in the Dundalk and St. Helena areas in the vicinity of Eastpoint, said its spokesman, Don H. Vandrey.

Dundalk and St. Helena have a high concentration of mosquitoes, Vandrey said, because of their proximity to water.

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