Cause of Sunnyside woman's death confirmed to be West Nile virus

The Yakima Health District has received confirmation from the Washington State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the Sept. 19, 2009 death of 71-year-old Ruth Rogers of Sunnyside was caused by West Nile virus.

This is the first death from West Nile virus in Washington state.

Yakima County has had 20 confirmed cases of West Nile virus this year and the Yakima Health District is awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on three more potential cases. Besides the one death, all the other people in Yakima County with the virus are recovering.

"The Yakima Health District has anticipated potential complications from West Nile virus because of the increased number of cases this year. That does not lessen the weight and devastating loss endured by the family and community," said Dr. Devika Singh, Deputy Health Officer for the Yakima Health District.

"We at the Yakima Health District offer our deepest condolences and support to the family and affected communities in Sunnyside," Singh added.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. During peak mosquito season several precautionary measures are encouraged, including eliminating standing water, using appropriate mosquito repellant, avoiding being outdoors around dusk and dawn (peak mosquito hours) and wearing

long sleeves and pants when in areas with mosquito activity.

Because the temperature is colder now and freezing temperatures are beginning to be seen throughout Yakima County, mosquito activity and the risk for West Nile virus infection should be decreasing for this year.

Only one in five infected people develop symptoms of the virus. Onset of illness occurs three to 14 days after being infected by the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus. Illness typically resolves without medical help. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, rash and swollen lymph nodes.

A more serious form of West Nile virus disease affects less than 1 percent of symptomatic cases, producing symptoms such as neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, or even death.

Individuals over 50 years of age appear to be more susceptible to developing this more serious form of the virus. People experiencing any of the above symptoms should consult their medical provider.

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