By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT THOMAS - An 89-year-old Fort Thomas woman has become this year's first West Nile virus death in Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati, state and local health officials said Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the children of Erma Margaret Haverkamp Gutfreund told the media that doctors believed their mother died of complications from the West Nile virus. The active widow was hospitalized the week before her Sept. 26 death at St. Luke Hospital East.
Peggy Patterson, spokeswoman for the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department, confirmed Wednesday that Gutfreund was a victim of the West Nile virus. State health officials said results were verified by the Kentucky Public Health Lab in Frankfort.
Kentucky has 11 West Nile cases this year, including four recent cases in Kenton, Fayette, Daviess and Clinton counties, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Cabinet for Health Services. In all of the cases, the illness began between August and mid-September, and results were confirmed by the state lab.
Six human cases had been reported in Kentucky for this year, including one in Grant County. State health officials refused to release further details, citing the federal health privacy act.
Last year, there were five deaths and 75 West Nile cases in Kentucky, Lawson said.
State health officials have released information on the rare, mosquito-borne illness for the past three years, "in part to alert people to the presence of the virus and to urge them to take precautions,'' Lawson said. "Even though it's getting cooler, on warm days, mosquitoes will still be active. As long as there is warm weather, people should continue to take precautions.''
Comprehensive listings for positive birds, horses and mosquito pools by county can be found on the Department for Public Health Web site at http://chs.ky.gov/publichealth/west nile virus.htm.
The West Nile virus is spread to humans by a bite from an infected mosquito. However, even in areas where West Nile virus is circulating, less than 1 percent of people who are bitten will become ill, health officials said.
People should use mosquito repellent with DEET; get rid of sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, and wear light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants and a hat when outside between dusk and dawn.
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