Health officials: 3 people likely contracted West Nile virus in Baker County this summer

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BAKER CITY, Oregon — Three Baker County residents who got sick this summer likely were infected with the West Nile virus, according to health officials.

The Oregon Health Authority and the county health department are calling the cases "presumptive" because final test results are not yet available. They would be the first human cases since 2007 in the eastern Oregon county, the Baker City Herald reported (http://is.gd/iDyoGV ).

Dr. Emilio DeBess, public health veterinarian with the Oregon Health Authority, said the patients definitely contracted either West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis. Both are spread by mosquitoes, but the tests been done so far could not distinguish between the two diseases.

More conclusive results from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta won't be available for about three weeks, he said.

It's much more likely that the residents were infected with West Nile virus, DeBess said. There were 153 confirmed cases of West Nile between 2003 and 2012 and just one case of St. Louis encephalitis during that span.

One of the likely cases involved Martha Pennock, who lives in the unincorporated community of New Bridge. Pennock, 70, told the newspaper she spent a night in the Baker City hospital in early August because of dehydration and kidney problems.

Pennock says she feels better, but hasn't fully recovered from the weakness and lethargy that are common symptoms of the virus. The disease has been found in mosquitoes collected in at least six Oregon counties this summer.

Health officials say 80 percent of people infected with West Nile display no symptoms.


Information from: Baker City Herald, http://www.bakercityherald.com/

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