State sets record for West Nile deaths


LITTLE ROCK —Arkansas’ fifth West Nile death this year set a state record for deaths related to the mosquito-borne virus in a single year, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

The previous high for deaths related to the virus was four in both 2005 and 2006, the department said.

The department does not provide information on West Nile victims, citing privacy law.

The total number of illnesses in the state so far this year from the virus is 41, which is approaching the 2002 record of 43.

Dr. Gary Wheeler, chief of the Infectious Disease Branch at the Health Department, said cooler weather may slow activity of mosquitoes down some, but people who are at risk should continue to take precautions.

Those at-risk, Wheeler said, include the elderly, immuno-compromised people and those who suffer from serious chronic illnesses.

“Most people who become infected will never know it. Less than 1 percent of those who become infected will develop serious disease,” Wheeler said in a news release.

West Nile virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of infections usually peaks in mid-August.

Health officials say the best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites by draining standing water from yards, flower pots, buckets and kiddie pools; wearing protective clothing when going-out at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes feed; and using insect repellents during outdoor activities.