Elderly city resident may be third West Nile virus victim

Woman, 70, arrived at Mercy with symptoms

September 21, 2001|By Diana K. Sugg | Diana K. Sugg,SUN STAFF

An elderly Baltimore woman may have contracted the West Nile virus, which would bring to three the number of Marylanders infected with the virus this summer.

The 70-year-old woman, who lives in the Jonestown area, showed up confused and delirious at Mercy Medical Center about two weeks ago, said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, city health commissioner. The patient suffered from chills, tremors and other symptoms of encephalitis, or brain inflammation, caused by the virus. Although she has improved, she is still at Mercy Medical Center, authorities said.

Conclusive tests are not finished, but officials say they are 90 percent sure that the woman, whose name was not released, has the virus. Like the rare few who get sick from West Nile, she is elderly and has other health problems. She also gardens and is frequently outside, making it easier for her to get bitten by the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

Maryland's other two cases are a 72-year-old city man, who was recently discharged from Sinai Hospital, and a 63-year-old Baltimore County woman, who died the weekend of Sept. 8 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Her death was not caused by West Nile, but by unrelated health problems.

Because of the new case, Beilenson said city crews will spray to kill mosquitoes in the Jonestown area Monday night. Weather permitting, crews will also spray in Brooklyn and the Herring Run watershed. Routine monitoring showed that both neighborhoods had a high level of mosquitoes, as well as a significant number that were infected with the virus. Maps showing the specific spraying areas will be released today.

Still, most people have little to fear from West Nile, health officials say. Roughly 80 percent of the people infected with the virus never develop symptoms.

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