The recent death of a Greenfield women in her 70s may have been due to the West Nile virus, the Greenfield health department announced today.
Official confirmation linking this death, and another in the area, is pending further testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
West Nile virus is spread to people by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. While 80 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito experience no symptoms at all and most of the other 20 percent have only a mild illness, individuals older than 50 are most at risk, health officials said.
Symptoms usually are fever, headache, eye pain, muscle aches, joint pain, a rash on the trunk, swollen lymph nodes, nausea and vomiting. Less than 1 percent of people infected with the West Nile virus become severely ill. Symptoms of severe illness include extreme muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), paralysis and coma. In rare cases the infection may be fatal, particularly in the elderly and people with other medical conditions, according to the health department.