Division of Public Health officials announced on Sept. 19 that a 73-year-old New Castle County man has died after becoming infected with West Nile virus.

The individual has been hospitalized since late August; he passed away this week. This is Delaware’s first West Nile virus-related death since 2012, when a 76-year-old New Castle County woman died from the disease.

DPH has confirmed five cases of West Nile virus this year. Of the confirmed cases, all are men, four are New Castle County residents, including the individual who passed away, and one is a Sussex County resident. Their ages range from 57 to 75 years old.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the gentleman's family," said DPH Director Karyl Rattay. "His death is a reminder of how serious West Nile virus can be, especially among vulnerable populations. The end of peak mosquito season is not expected for another month, so Delaware residents are once again urged to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and wear insect repellent whenever they go outdoors. It is particularly important for those who may have underlying health conditions to heed this message.”

While the mosquitoes that cause West Nile virus bite primarily from dusk to dawn, other mosquitoes that cause diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever and Zika can bite during the day. The Centers for Disease Control now recommends wearing insect repellent whenever outdoors.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can cause serious health problems. West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, generally in summer and fall, with a peak period for disease transmissions from mid-August to mid-October. Nearly 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will not become ill. While only a little less than 20 percent of those infected with the virus will develop West Nile fever with mild symptoms, including fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash on the chest or back and swollen lymph glands, one in 150 people infected will develop severe infection, including West Nile encephalitis or meningitis.

Symptoms of severe West Nile virus infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck and/or tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.

For more, visit cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html.