Duval Confirms Case of West Nile; County on Health Alert despite Colder Weather

Article excerpt

Byline: Tia Mitchell, Times-Union staff writer

Health officials asked people to take precautions yesterday but not panic now that the state's 23rd case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in Duval County.

The Florida Department of Health said late Saturday that a 52-year-old Duval County man has the potentially deadly virus that is contracted by humans through mosquito bites. The discovery led to Duval County becoming the latest in the state put under medical alert for the virus.

Officials said colder weather means fewer mosquitoes are buzzing, but there is still a chance of being bitten and contracting West Nile virus.

"We need to be just mindful because we live in Florida [and] we're outdoors a lot," Duval County Health Department spokeswoman Patricia Frank said.

Frank, who is also a registered nurse, said people should continue to use insect repellent and eliminate standing water, which mosquitoes use for breeding. She said the recently confirmed case should draw attention to the disease.

"Maybe now people will believe it more," she said.

Duval joins 38 other counties, including St. Johns and Putnam, that are also under medical alert. Bill Parizek, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, said Duval will remain on alert until all counties are lifted together, a decision that will come at the discretion of health officials and epidemiologists.

Parizek said the man whose case was reported Saturday is a resident of Duval County. His name, how the case came to the attention of health officials and information about the man's condition were not released for reasons of patient confidentiality, he said.

He did say that normal procedure is for a person to get a clinical diagnosis from a doctor, who notes symptoms of West Nile virus. A test sample is then sent to the Department of Health, where the case is confirmed, Parizek said.

Officials may never determine if the man actually contracted the virus in Duval County, Parizek said, but the facts were enough cause to issue the alert and notify the public.

"There still is the potential to be bitten by mosquitoes and be infected with the West Nile virus," he said. …