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ND Health Department reports year's first West Nile death

BISMARCK - The state Department of Health announced the state's first West Nile virus-related death of the year Thursday, Aug. 24.The central North Dakota woman was more than 60 years old and had "underlying medical conditions," according to a ne...

Ben Prather, vector control director for Cass County checks sorts through a pile of collected mosquitos from the Fargo Country Club looking for Culex tarsalis, a type of mosquito known to be a carrier of West Nile, June 29, 2012, in West Fargo, N.D. Forum News Service file photo
Ben Prather, vector control director for Cass County checks sorts through a pile of collected mosquitos from the Fargo Country Club looking for Culex tarsalis, a type of mosquito known to be a carrier of West Nile, June 29, 2012, in West Fargo, N.D. Forum News Service file photo
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BISMARCK - The state Department of Health announced the state's first West Nile virus-related death of the year Thursday, Aug. 24.

The central North Dakota woman was more than 60 years old and had "underlying medical conditions," according to a news release. She died while hospitalized.

"This death is a tragic reminder of how dangerous West Nile virus can be," Laura Cronquist, an epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health, said in a statement. "West Nile virus transmission typically peaks in late summer in North Dakota. Until there is a hard frost to get rid of the remaining mosquito population, people should continue to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites."

Most people infected with West Nile experience no symptoms or only mild symptoms, like a fever and headache, but more severe infections can cause high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, altered mental state and death. People with those symptoms should see a health care provider immediately.

Those older than 60 years or who have underlying health issues have the greatest risk of developing a severe illness due to the virus.

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So far this year, 29 human West Nile virus cases have been reported in 16 counties. Twelve of the 29 cases were hospitalized. Last year, North Dakota had 85 cases and two virus-related deaths.

The Health Department recommended several precautions, including using insect repellant, limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn and eliminating stagnant water and leaf debris in containers around homes, where mosquitoes can lay eggs.

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