News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 19, 2013

West Nile death from Vigo County

Further Tribune-Star inquiry reveals confirmed location

TERRE HAUTE — State health officials have confirmed the state’s first death this year due to West Nile virus was a Vigo County resident, according to an Indiana State Department of Health news release issued Friday.

The identity of the person has not been made public.

On Wednesday, the Tribune-Star attempted to obtain through the Marion County Health Department the death certificate of a man believed to have died from West Nile Virus. The department, citing state law and a recent Indiana appeals court ruling, declined to release the certificate.

Also Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Health told the Tribune-Star the county of residence of the person who died from West Nile was also protected information under Indiana privacy laws. However, on Friday, the ISDH reversed that position and released the county as Vigo.

Amanda Turney, an ISDH spokeswoman, reached by email Friday evening, told the Tribune-Star the change Friday resulted from a review of past agency handling of West Nile information.

“[T]he Indiana State Department of Health reviewed what we had done in the past regarding West Nile virus deaths so this is why it has changed,” Turney stated.

Twenty human cases have been reported and mosquito samples in 87 counties have tested positive for West Nile virus. In 2012, 77 human cases and eight deaths occurred in Indiana.

“Although we’re past the normal peak season for West Nile virus, which was in August and September,” said Jennifer House, DVM, Director of Zoonotic and Environmental Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health, “there’s still a risk of becoming infected on warmer days when mosquitoes are biting, so Hoosiers should continue to take precautions.”

Mosquitoes are typically not very active below 60 degrees Fahrenheit; however, until there is a hard freeze (approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit), there is still a risk of being bitten and becoming infected with West Nile virus.

West Nile virus usually causes West Nile fever, a milder form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. Some individuals will develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other severe syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.

Individuals who think they may have West Nile virus should see their health care provider. There is no vaccine and no cure for West Nile virus.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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