The Local West Nile Facts

June 6, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — From late last summer into early fall, 3,800 cases of West Nile virus were reported in 41 states, a period that marked the largest outbreak of the disease since it was detected in 1999.

West Nile stung Kent County last year, too, as 57 cases were reported here and four residents died from the virus in 2002.

The Kent County Health Department compiled an epidemiological profile on the virus and here are some of those findings:

  • Roughly 68 percent of those infected with the virus were Grand Rapids residents, as the particular breed of mosquito most associated with transmitting West Nile largely resides in urban areas instead of natural or rural environments.

  • 47 percent of those infected developed encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain; 30 percent developed meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord; 19 percent developed both encephalitis and meningitis; and 4 percent had the mild West Nile fever.

  • The youngest county resident to be infected last year was 6 years old; the oldest was 88.

  • The average age of those contracting the virus was 50 years old.

  • Males accounted for 67 percent of the West Nile cases here.

  • The health department received nearly 4,000 reports of dead birds last summer. Most of those citizen reports came about two weeks before the first case became known, which is consistent with surveillance trends in other parts of the nation.

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