BISMARCK – A woman over the age of 60 who died last week was North Dakota’s first West Nile virus-related death of 2014, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday.
While the Health Department’s policy is to identify the region of the state where the death occurred, it’s not doing so in this case because the low number of West Nile cases this year would make it easier to identify where the woman was from and the department wants to protect her family’s privacy, said Alicia Lepp, West Nile virus surveillance coordinator.
The department has confirmed 12 human cases of West Nile virus this year, including the woman who died: three cases in Morton County, two each in Burleigh and Richland counties and one each in Barnes, Emmons, Hettinger, Logan and Mountrail counties. Four of the cases resulted in hospitalization.
Lepp said the fact a death occurred in one area doesn’t mean the risk of contracting West Nile virus is any higher there.
“The general risk is there for the entire state,” she said.
The woman who died had no underlying medical conditions and was otherwise healthy before being hospitalized with the virus, Lepp said. People older than 50 are at an increased risk of developing complications and the more severe form of the virus, she said.
The department also has confirmed cases of West Nile virus this year in two moose, one cow and one equine, Lepp said.
Last year, North Dakota had 127 human cases of West Nile virus resulting in 45 hospitalizations and two deaths.
To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes that may carry the virus, the Health Department recommends using insect repellent, limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, wearing long clothing, getting rid of stagnant water and leaf debris around homes, keeping grass trimmed and repairing screens on windows and doors.