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West Nile virus kills D.C. resident

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Local,DC,Hayley Peterson

A D.C. resident has died of West Nile virus, and another has been hospitalized from the mosquito-borne disease, according to city health officials.

The city's health department did not name the dead individual, who lived in Northeast. The agency did not respond to requests for additional information.

The death is the District's first this year from the West Nile virus. Maryland last week also reported its first West Nile fatality, which has sickened 20 people in the state so far this year. Virginia has reported five cases of the virus and no fatalities.

The virus spreads
The states with the most cases of West Nile virus this year:
State Cases Deaths
Texas 888 35
South Dakota 119 2
Oklahoma 113 7
Mississippi 113 4
Michigan 95 5
Louisiana 73 6

The West Nile virus, which is typically spread by mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds, is on the rise nationwide. A record-breaking 1,993 cases -- including 87 deaths -- have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far this year.

"The 1,993 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the first week in September since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999," said Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's division of vector-borne infectious diseases.

Federal officials are expecting an even sharper increase in infections over the next couple months, Peterson said.

"We expect this increase to continue for the next several weeks, probably until October," he said. The most cases have been reported in Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Michigan. Texas alone accounts for about half the nationwide cases, according to David Lakey, commissioner for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Federal officials attribute the rise in reported cases to an early spring and the long summer heat wave.

"We know that West Nile virus outbreaks tend to occur when the temperature is above normal, and of course, this year's heat wave was record-setting," Petersen said. The high temperatures and heavy humidity provide a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Symptoms of a mild West Nile virus infection, which can develop up to two weeks after being bitten, include a fever, headache, fatigue and body aches. Roughly one in 150 infected people contract a more severe form of the virus, which can cause coma, paralysis and disorientation, as well as death.

To avoid infection, the CDC is urging people to wear mosquito repellent, empty standing water near their homes -- such as in bird baths or kiddie pools -- and wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes carrying the virus are the most active.

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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