West Nile Virus

Learn about West Nile Virus.

Press Release

Sept. 10, 2019

 Media Contact:

Deidre McCabe, Director, Office of Communications, 410-767-3536

West Nile Virus detected in Maryland resident
Residents reminded to take basic steps to reduce risk

Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) today confirmed the first case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Maryland this year. The infected individual is an adult living in the National Capital Region in Maryland.  MDH routinely tracks and responds to mosquito-borne infections; no other locally acquired arboviral infections have been identified this year.

The number of human WNV cases in Maryland has varied greatly from year to year. In 2003, there were 73 cases. In 2012, there were 47 cases; in 2015, 46 cases; and in 2018, 45 cases.

MDH wants to remind Marylanders there are simple steps to reduce the risk of getting infected. Protective measures include:

  • Avoiding areas of high mosquito activity.
  • Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when outdoors.
  • Using an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions.

Most individuals (4 out of 5) infected with WNV will not have any symptoms. People who do develop illness usually will have any combination of fever, headache, body aches, skin rash vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms generally appear 2 to 14 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Fewer than 1 percent of people exposed to the virus will develop more severe infections, with symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

People 60 years of age and older have the greatest risk of developing severe disease. People with compromised immune systems also may be at high risk of WNV infection. In rare instances, WNV can be fatal.

Residents are urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes. To eliminate mosquito-breeding areas:

  • Clean rain gutters to allow water to flow freely.
  • Empty or screen corrugated drain pipes.
  • Remove old tires or drill drainage holes in tires used as playground equipment.
  • Turn over wading pools, wheelbarrows, wagons and carts when not in use.
  • Flush water from the bottom of plant holders twice a week.
  • Replace water in birdbaths at least twice a week.
  • Turn garbage can lids upside down and make sure trash receptacles are empty of water.
  • Fix dripping faucets.
  • Aerate ornamental pools and water gardens or stock with fish and use a circulating filter system.

Although birds are not routinely tested for WNV in Maryland, sick or injured birds can be reported to an appropriate local wildlife rehabilitator. Residents can call 1-877-463-6497 for a list of licensed rehabilitators or visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web site athttp://dnr.maryland.gov/Wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/wildlifeproblems.aspx. Detailed instructions on what to do when you find a sick or dead bird can be found at https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/Pages/west-nile-virus.aspx.

MDH provides weekly updates on its website of WNV activity detected in mosquitoes, and cases in which humans or other mammals in Maryland have been infected. For each case, MDH indicates whether the infected individual is a child or adult and the region of the state where the individual resides. The reports will be available each Wednesday at https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/Pages/west-nile-virus.aspx.

For additional information on West Nile virus, visit MDH at https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/Pages/west-nile-virus.aspx, MDA athttp://mda.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/westnile.

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The Maryland Department of Health is dedicated to protecting and improving the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management and community engagement. Follow us at http://www.twitter.com/MDHealthDept and https://www.facebook.com/MDHealthDept.