SALEM, Mass. — A North Salem resident has contracted West Nile virus, health officials have announced, and the woman — who is in her 70s, — is continuing to recover in a rehabilitation facility after spending time last week in the intensive care unit at Salem Hospital.
The Salem Board of Health alerted residents to the diagnosis on Friday, after receiving confirmation from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
But Salem resident Maureen Carr said the West Nile patient, who is a member of her family, had received a West Nile diagnosis from a local doctor at Salem Hospital last Monday.
Carr said that her relative was very sick and was hospitalized in intensive care for three days. As the week wore on, the family became increasingly frustrated that Salem city officials were not letting residents know about the diagnosis.
“We feel people should have been notified sooner. Time is of the essence with something like this,” Carr said. “... I think it’s important that people know.”
Carr, who is a nurse practitioner, stressed that she spoke with The Salem News, sister paper of the Eagle-Tribune, on behalf of her family and not in a professional capacity.
The relative is still recovering in a local rehabilitation facility, Carr said. The family is certain she contracted the mosquito-borne virus in Salem, since she had not been outside the city recently.
“It’s just so sad. It happened so quickly, out of the blue,” Carr said. “This was an extremely healthy woman. ... She was at my son’s wedding a few weeks ago, dancing. We say our prayers and hope things turn around.”
The diagnosis marks the closest confirmation of a human case of West Nile virus to Cape Ann, where three of the four communities are not part of a regional network that regularly tests mosquitoes for West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis and carries out spraying programs when such cases are confirmed.