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91-year-old city man Falls Victim to West Nile Virus

91 year old Lester Boggs whose lackadaisical attitude towards using insect repellent, eventually proved to be the cause of his death// when he apparently exposed himself to the West Nile virus.

He died on Sept. 3 at St. John's Hospital marking Sangamon County's first West Nile-related death since 2002, when four county residents - all older than 60 - died from illnesses related to the mosquito-borne virus.

Boggs' wife of 66 years, Mary Boggs, said that she hoped that her husband's death inspired more work on a West Nile vaccine and prompts more people to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

However she did say that she doesn't want people to become so fearful that they shut themselves up in their homes. She advised, "Live a normal life, but do be on guard."

Lester Boggs death is apparently Illinois' fourth death this year related to West Nile virus.

Health officials say that only one in five people bitten by an infected mosquito will get sick with most illnesses being mild. Severe complications are usually found in people older than 50.

Carol Dougherty, chief of the infectious-diseases section at the Sangamon health department, said the department couldn't yet connect Lester Boggs' death to West Nile because it hadn't been able to review his death certificate. And this could well take weeks before the death certificate was forwarded to the county health department.

Only on Friday, health officials confirmed that three Sangamon County residents - a 91-year-old man, a 52-year-old woman and a 59-year-old man - had come down with West Nile-related illnesses.

Mary Boggs, 85, reported that her husband had felt weak and rested in bed for three days before she called an ambulance when he collapsed at home in early August.

He was hospitalized for three weeks and two days. She said that a blood test conducted when he was first admitted to St. John's came back positive fo r West Nile virus seven or eight days later.

She expresses her desire to see the development of a a vaccine developed for West Nile. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site says that currently no such vaccine exists for humans, but research is ongoing. There only exists a West Nile vaccine in use for horses that's 70 percent effective, according to Linn Haramis, an entomologist with the state health department.

Haramis said that cool weather in recent weeks apparently led to fewer-than-expected numbers of West Nile infections in Illinois. At present the number of human cases stands at 94.

But he warned residents to continue to take precautions because warm weather in coming weeks could lead to more activity among culex mosquitoes, which carry West Nile. Health officials suggest that people use insect repellent containing DEET, eliminate any standing water that can provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and avoid being outdoors between dusk and dawn.


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