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Suffolk health department reports just one case of West Nile virus in 2014

The Suffolk County health commissioner yesterday reported the first — and only — confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Suffolk this year.

An Islip Town resident was hospitalized in late August after experiencing symptoms consistent with West Nile virus, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services James Tomarken said in a Dec. 12 press release. The patient, a male over 55 years of age, has since recovered and returned home, Tomarken said.

The number of cases of West Nile virus varies each year, according to the health department. The county reported four human cases in 2013 and four cases in 2011, compared to 14 human cases in 2012 and 25 cases in 2010, a year in which the virus claimed three lives, according to the press release.

“There is no discernable trend,” Tomarken said in the release. “We know about the cases in which the patient sought treatment and we received laboratory confirmation of West Nile virus,” said Dr. Tomarken. “There may be many more residents who acquired West Nile virus, but we never learned about them because their symptoms were mild and they didn’t seek medical attention or they sought medical attention but lab tests were not ordered.”

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people infected with West Nile virus will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop severe symptoms including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Individuals who are most at risk — especially those over 50 years of age or those with compromised immune systems — are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Individuals who have medical questions related to West Nile virus may call the Department of Health Services: 631-854-0333.