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First West Nile case since 2013 reported in Sussex Co.

Delaware's first human case of West Nile Virus since 2013 has been reported in Sussex County.

The state Department of Public Health says a six-year-old girl fell ill with symptoms of the mosquito-borne illness. She was hospitalized briefly and is now recovering at home.

Paula Eggers is an infectious disease epidemiologist with the DPH. While this is the first case that's been reported in a couple of years, she says the virus has probably still been present in the First State.

"Likely there have been cases, but they either just weren't sick enough to warrant seeing a medical provider, or didn't develop any symptoms at all," Eggers says.

She says more than 80 percent of people who contract the virus don't get sick. Others can develop flu-like symptoms or a rash. In rare cases, the virus can cause severe or even fatal brain inflammation.

Eggers says children and the elderly are at highest risk for more serious symptoms, but:

"Basically anyone living in an area where West Nile is present, and mosquitos, can get infected," she says. "So normally those that have the highest risk of getting infected are those that work outside or participate in outdoor activities, because, simply, they have a greater exposure to mosquitos."

She says folks should protect themselves by wearing insect repellant or long-sleeved clothing, and keeping their property free of standing water.

In 2013, Delaware saw just three reported human cases of West Nile, but Eggers says that number varies each year. She says the state will continue its mosquito spraying program this summer, and they'll test dead birds, which pass the virus to mosquitoes, to monitor its spread.

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