Maryland reports first West Nile virus case of the year

Health officials in Maryland are reminding everyone how to reduce the risk of getting the West Nile virus after confirming the state's first human case this year.

On Thursday, The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) announced that an adult living in the Baltimore Metropolitan area has tested positive for the virus.

The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes who have been infected by feeding on birds that have the virus.

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Health officials say In rare instances, the virus can also spread from person to person through organ donation, blood transfusion, breastfeeding, or from pregnant mother to fetus.

Health officials say up to 80 percent of people do not develop symptoms from the virus, but those who are older than 50 or have immunocompromised conditions can become seriously ill.

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Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash or swollen lymph glands. These symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks. 

"We are in the season when we start to see West Nile virus spread in Maryland," said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinline Chan. "We urge people to be vigilant and take steps to avoid infection. Disease surveillance teams are closely monitoring for any signs of increased numbers of infected mosquitoes that may turn up in areas across the state."

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Health officials say people can protect themselves from the West Nile virus by taking the following steps:

  • Cover up exposed skin and use an EPA-registered insect repellent.
  • Remove areas of high mosquito activity or standing water from your yards or gardens

West Nile virus was detected in the United States for the first time in 1999, and the number of Marylanders infected with the virus fluctuates each season, according to health officials. In 2019, there were seven people who tested positive for the virus in the state, one in 2020, and two in 2021.

For more information on the West Nile virus visit the the Maryland Department of Health's website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention West Nile virus information page.