COLUMBUS — A 76-year-old Hamilton County man has died from the West Nile Virus in the first WNV-related death of the year and state health officials continue to see widespread infections.
The Ohio Department of Health confirmed the death of the man Wednesday, but did not release his name. According to a press release, the man was hospitalized with encephalitis.
“We continue to see growing numbers of human cases of West Nile Virus infection and positive mosquito samples throughout the state,” ODH Director Ted Wymyslo, M.D., said in a press release. “Ohioans should remain vigilant and take all reasonable precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.”
The ODH says Ohio has seen 49 human cases of WNV this year and 960 positive mosquito samples. That is a dramatic increase from the two cases and 450 positive mosquito samples the state had by this time last year.
The percentage of mosquitoes testing positive for the virus so far in 2012 has been higher than in any year since 2002, according to the release. By the end of the 2002 season, Ohio had 441 human WNV cases and 31 fatalities.
Thirty-one counties have identified WNV-positive humans, mosquitoes and horses so far this year and the median age of those infected is 56 years old. The youngest human case involved a 4-year-old, while the oldest human case was 87 years old.
Culex mosquitoes, the type that transmits WNV, do well in drought-like conditions, preferring to breed in organically-rich water sources, such as shrinking water in ditches and catch basins. Recent heat across the region also has sped up the mosquitoes’ life cycle and virus amplification, according to the ODH.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, fatigue and body aches. More serious cases develop into diseases like encephalitis and meningitis, with symptoms including high fever, convulsions and paralysis.
The department urges residents to be vigilant by using mosquito repellant and avoiding the outdoors at dusk and dawn, if possible.
Other suggestions include:
— Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks, especially if outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
— Wear light colors, which are least attractive to mosquitoes.
— Use insect repellent and follow the label directions.
To eliminate mosquito breeding sites:
— Remove all discarded tires and other water-holding containers, such as tin cans and unused flower pots, from the property.
— Eliminate standing water from the property.
— Make sure all roof gutters are clean and properly draining. Clean and chlorinate pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty when not in use and drain water from pool covers.
— Check rain barrels weekly and prevent them from becoming a mosquito breeding source.
— Change water in bird baths weekly.
By ALISSA PAOLELLA
The Associated Press contributed to this story.