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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: August 31, 2012



The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) confirmed the state's first human West Nile virus case today. DPH epidemiologists have concluded that, although the 34-year-old man who tested positive is a Wilmington resident, the disease was likely contracted out of state. The man is currently hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require that disease reporting occur by state of residence, not where the disease was likely contracted, for consistency purposes.

DPH reminds community members to protect themselves against West Nile virus. Although a number of cases have been seen in the US recently, Delaware has only this single human case this year and only one in 2011. West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes when they bite, generally from spring to fall. Nearly 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will not become ill. The CDC estimates that only 20 percent of those infected will develop West Nile fever, with mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash on the chest or back and swollen lymph glands. Many cases likely go unreported.

"Delawareans must continue to be vigilant in protecting themselves from mosquito bites," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Delaware Public Health Director. "Delaware may very well see cases that are contracted inside the state. Public Health is urging people to be careful and also asking medical providers to be familiar with West Nile symptoms and treatment. When in doubt, medical providers should test for the disease."

One in 150 people infected develop severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) with headache, high fever, stiff neck, and/or tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.

To avoid mosquito bites and reduce the risk of infection, residents should:

For further information, Delaware state government offers several West Nile virus resources.

For medical providers, to report suspected cases or learn more about testing, call the DPH Bureau of Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.

To report intolerable numbers of biting mosquitoes or other concerns, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Mosquito Control Section field offices:

Calls will be answered by staff from Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Callers after business hours or during weekends or holidays should leave a message giving their name, phone number, address and a brief description of their need or problem.

For more information on Mosquito Control, call 302-739-9917 or visit

For more information about West Nile virus in horses, contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture at 302-698-4500 or 800-282-8685 (Delaware only).

For more general information on West Nile Virus, go to

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.