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Maryland reports first West Nile Virus case of 2021

West Nile virus symptoms are similar to COVID-19 at first, experts say
Posted at 1:41 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 13:41:29-04

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed the state's first positive case of West Nile virus in 2021.

It was detected in an adult from the Baltimore metropolitan area.

According to health officials, the West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes who have been infected by birds who have the virus.

Although rare, the virus can spread person to person during organ donations, blood transfusions, breastfeeding, or from pregnant mother to fetus.

Up to 80 percent of people who are infected will not display any signs of illness. However, those with underlying health conditions could become seriously ill.

Those who do develop symptoms may experience fever, headache, and body aches; occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands may be noticed.

The number of Maryland residents infected fluctuates each season. In 2018 -- 45 people tested positive followed by seven cases in 2019.

West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999.

“This is the season when we start to see West Nile virus spread in Maryland, so we urge people to be vigilant and take steps to avoid infection," said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Dr. Jinlene Chan. "Disease surveillance teams are closely monitoring increasing numbers of infected mosquitoes that have turned up in several areas across the state."

People concerned about mosquitoes should cover up exposed skin and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions. Residents are also urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for areas of high mosquito activity, especially standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes, as well as clogged rain gutters or drain pipes.

Typically the state does not test birds for West Nile virus. However, you can report sick or injured birds by calling 1-877-463-6497 or clicking here.