Annapolis woman had West Nile, tests confirm

September 28, 2002

An elderly Annapolis woman who died last week was infected with West Nile virus, Maryland health officials announced yesterday.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said tests on the 79-year-old, whose name has not been released, and on three other Maryland residents recently came back positive for the virus.

There is no confirmation that the virus directly caused the woman's death. Health officials said she was admitted to a hospital Aug. 7 with encephalitis and died Sept. 12.

The recent test results bring to 10 the number of human West Nile cases diagnosed in Maryland this year, health officials said. Last year in Maryland, there were six reported cases of human infection; three people died from the virus. Nationwide, the virus has been diagnosed in more than 2,300 people this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's endemic now," said J.B. Hanson, a Maryland health department spokesman.

West Nile virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Health officials repeated their call yesterday for residents to eliminate prime mosquito breeding sites and to use mosquito repellent.

Most people infected with the virus will have no symptoms, health officials said. Less than 1 percent of those exposed will suffer serious illness from the virus.

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