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West Nile: Contracting the Virus By the Numbers

By: Angela Howard Email
By: Angela Howard Email

Health officials say more than 3,100 cases and 134 deaths have been reported this year alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of the cases have been classified as neuro-invasive, meaning they affect the person's nervous system.
That's what happened to Chase Fitchner. He fought the disease for two years before his death in 2004.

He didn't get West Nile from a mosquito bite. His parents say he got it through a blood transfusion and they want everyone to know the possibility is there, even though the health department says it's very minute.

"The Chance of you getting West Nile Virus through a blood transfusion or an organ transplant is so small, it's simply not worth stirring people up about," said Homer Rice, Ph.D., an administrator with the Leon County Health Department.

He went on to say that in most cases, a person's immune system is able to overcome the virus. Others, however, need to be extra careful. Those with weak immune systems or pregnant women fall into that needing to be 'extra careful' category.

Blood banks have been testing donated blood for West Nile since about 2002. Any blood found to be abnormal in any way is discarded.
Meantime, health officials say it's important to stress that *most* cases of West Nile are transmitted through mosquitoes - so you should guard yourself by wearing insect repellent and staying inside during dusk and dawn.


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