By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A Laurel County man was just released from the hospital this month after contracting the West Nile Virus, Regional Epidemiologist Dr. Marion Pennington said. It’s here and precautions must be taken.
“We are in the midst of the largest West Nile Virus outbreak since 2003,” Pennington said.
Kelly Currens in Laurel County is one of two Kentuckians who have been confirmed to have the disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. Currens began noticing severe headaches that lasted for days and finally decided to seek medical attention on July, 18. While in the emergency room he began having seizures, and was immediately transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center.
“He’s having to learn how to walk again,” Pennington said.
Currens believes he could have received a mosquito bite while camping at Lake Cumberland or while mowing his yard at dusk. He noted there were a multitude of mosquitos outside, while the most active times reported for mosquitoes is in fact at dawn and dusk. The first case this year was diagnosed in May and the virus has eaten up the nation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed 1,118 cases so far, with 41 deaths reported. Approximately 75 percent of the cases were reported from five states, including Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.
Symptoms of the virus are severe headaches that last for days, flu-like symptoms, a fever, weakness, seizures, nausea, vomiting, confused mental status, chills, muscle aches, and can eventually lead to a coma and death. The virus derives from a disease carried by birds, and is carried via mosquitoes to other animals and people. “The mosquito bites a bird that has the virus and takes a meal off of somebody else, transmitting it while they inject their saliva into the body, while taking your blood and infecting you,” Pennington said.
Precautions to take while outside is to wear long sleeves during dawn and dusk hours, wear insect repellent at all times, especially young children and the elderly. Any standing water in any area should be removed, because they are prime breeding spots for mosquitoes, warned Pennington.
“Be aware if there are increased sightings of dead birds, it’s the first thing that you’ll notice. If you see dead birds let somebody in the community know or call the health department,” Pennington said.
In addition to Currens’ recent case, the West Nile Virus has also been confirmed in a Laurel County horse which was euthanized a couple of weeks ago. The virus was first discovered in 1937 and no cases were reported until 1999 in a New York City Zoo. A major outbreak occurred in 2003. To contact the Laurel County Health Department, call 606-864-5187. The health department is located at 525 Whitley St., London, Ky. 40741.