The Prince William Health District announced Friday that a county resident has probably been infected with the West Nile virus.
Dr. Jared Florance, director of the health district, said it was just a matter of time before a human in the area caught the mosquito-borne virus.
“I’m actually surprised we’ve waited this long, given the amount of virus we’ve had in Virginia,” Florance said.
“This is kind of a predictable event given the fact that the West Nile is as prevalent as it is in the birds and the horses in the community,” Florance said.
Florance attributed the lack of other cases to public awareness.
“I think that’s mostly due to the efforts of the public and how they’ve worked to get rid of standing bodies of water and the effectiveness of public works programs to control mosquito activity in the district,” he said.
A Friday press release from the Virginia Department of Health said this is the first human West Nile case in the Prince William district this year and the patient is improving.
Laboratory samples from the victim, who is over 50 years old, have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.
“We’re considering it a probable case until, of course, we get CDC confirmation,” Florance said.
Results are not expected for several weeks, the release said.
There were 29 human cases of the virus reported in Virginia last year. Two people who caught the disease died, the release said.
Florance advised people to continue in their vigilance against the disease by wearing insect repellent and protective clothing when they go outside.
The Virginia Department of Health recommends long, loose, light colored clothing.
“Until we get a killing frost, it’s still going to be possible for people to pick this up,” Florance said of the virus.
In the meantime, the release said, people should keep their yards clear of standing water. It recommended turning over old tires, potted plant trays, buckets and toys. People should clean birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week and clean gutters and down spouts regularly.
Also, wear insect repellent that contains no more than 50 percent DEET for adults and no more that 30 percent DEET for children.
People older than 50 are at the greatest risk for serious illness if they catch the virus, the release said.
Encephalitis, brain inflammation, and meningitis, inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord, are the most serious conditions suffered by those who are infected.
Most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito do not get sick, but a few will suffer mild flu-like symptoms. People who are bitten by mosquitoes do not need to see a doctor, the release said.
Florance would not specify where in the county the patient was bitten, because he said all areas are equally at risk.