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Josephine County man has state's first West Nile case this year

Local vector control officials are urging the public to use caution in mosquito-prone areas after the first human case of West Nile virus in Oregon this year was discovered in Josephine County, and mosquitoes and a dead crow tested positive in Jackson County.

According to a news release from the Jackson County Vector Control District, the latest confirmed instances of the virus here were in mosquitoes pooled Sept. 1 in north Medford and a dead crow collected Aug. 28 in south Medford. Vector control officials say 14 dead birds have been tested this year for the virus, five of which tested positive. The findings bring the total number of positive samples in the county this year to 14.

The Grants Pass Daily Courier reported Wednesday that the first human case in the state this year has been identified in a 65-year-old Grants Pass man. Officials say the last known human case of the virus in Jackson County was in 1999. Dr. Emilio DeBess, a public health veterinarian with the Oregon Health Authority, says state officials are still waiting for more information on the patient.

Health officials say one in five infected people may show signs of a fever, which in rare cases may cause inflammation of the brain. Symptoms are said to include fever above 100 degrees, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, muscle weakness, shaking, paralysis or a rash. Symptoms may last from a few days to several weeks.

"There's no treatment for it other than supportive care," DeBess said, explaining that usually entails providing fluids and stabilize the patient's symptoms. DeBess said that while most people who are symptomatic for a West Nile infection experience only mild illness, a portion of the population is susceptible to the more serious neurological symptoms.

Officials say people older than 50 and those with immune-compromising conditions, diabetes or high blood pressure are most at risk. "Those are the individuals we want to get hospitalized and treated," DeBess said.

The virus, which was first identified in the United States in 1999, has also been reported this year in Baker, Umatilla, Union, Morrow and Wallowa counties. It was first identified in Jackson County in 2004.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.