Two more human cases of the West Nile virus have been reported in Connecticut, state Department of Public Health officials said Monday.

One woman, a Hartford resident in her late 30s, has been treated and released from New Britain General Hospital. The second woman, a Stamford resident in her 80s, is in serious condition at Stamford Hospital.

Health officials are not releasing the names of the victims. Both are believed to have been exposed to the virus near their homes.

The elderly woman was admitted to Stamford Hospital early Friday morning with difficulty walking, a fever, and confusion, said hospital spokesman Scott Orstad.

A total of three human cases have been reported in the state this year. The first case was an Old Greenwich man in his 70s, reported Aug. 30. He is expected to be released from Stamford hospital within the next day or so, Orstad said.

Some West Nile victims — including the Old Greenwich man — have had some success with an experimental drug called interferon. The drug has been used in the past to treat Hepatitis C and some forms of cancer, and is being studied in an FDA trial.

The Old Greenwich victim responded within 48 hours of taking the drug, Orstad said. The Stamford woman was expected to take her first dose of the drug Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control had received 985 reports of human West Nile cases in 30 states and Washington, D.C. Forty-three of those cases have been fatal.

Only 66 cases were reported in 2001, and the close to 1000 human infections shows the virus has become more widespread during the 2002 season, said Bernadette Burden, a CDC spokeswoman.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, which contract it by feeding on infected birds and spread it by biting humans or other animals. The virus can be deadly in the elderly or in individuals with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms of the virus usually include chills, body aches, neurological symptoms like confusion and a high fever.

The highest concentration of infected mosquito pools and birds in Connecticut is along the shoreline and near Hartford, said John Anderson, director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The virus will peak in mid-September, Anderson said.

“There’s still a lot of virus out there,” Anderson said. “We are not in the clear. And people should be aware of that.”

–Associated Press