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Alabama Blames Death on West Nile

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An elderly Alabama woman who died this month is the nation's first death this year from the West Nile virus, Alabama health officials said Monday.

An unidentified Talladega County woman in her 80s came down with the disease this month, said John Mosley Hayes, an epidemiologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health. He did not say exactly what date she died.

"In our experience, the elderly seem to be affected more than the other population groups. However, all age groups can be affected and become ill," Hayes said. "The virus doesn't discriminate."

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not confirmed that the woman died from the disease, said spokesman Llelwyn Grant. But the CDC will be performing tests later this week, he said.

Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas have reported 26 human cases of West Nile, according to the CDC.

There were more than 4,100 cases of West Nile in the United States last year, with 277 deaths reported.

Georgia had 44 cases and seven deaths, and experts predict this spring's heavy rainfall may lead to even more cases.

West Nile has been detected in horses, birds and mosquitoes in Georgia this year, but no human cases of the virus have been reported, said Richard Quartarone, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"It's very possible that we could see our first human case in the next two or three weeks," he said.

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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