West Nile risk rises with temperature
SUPERIOR, Wis. - Warmer weather does more than threaten sunbathers with sunburn. It brings an increased risk of exposure to West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus is a mosquito transmitted virus that can cause illness in humans. Mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. The virus was first identified in the United States in 1999, but has been circulating throughout Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia since 1937.
West Nile Virus was first identified in infected wild birds in Wisconsin in 2001, and the first human infections in Wisconsin were seen in 2002.
Douglas County had its first and only case of human West Nile Infection in 2003, but infected birds have been detected in subsequent years.
Anyone can become infected with West Nile Virus, but adults over age 50 are more likely to develop severe disease.
About 80% of people infected do not have any symptoms.
Of the remaining 20%, most develop a mild illness, but some people (less than 1% of those infected) can go on to develop West Nile Encephalitis, a severe disease.
The Douglas County Public Health Service will continue to work with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to track West Nile Virus infections in humans, birds, and horses.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services conducts testing on dead crows, blue jays, and ravens to track the spread of the West Nile Virus.
To report a dead bird and determine if it is eligible for testing, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. Do not handle the bird with your bare hands.
There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus infection. The best way to prevent infection is to prevent mosquito bites, including the following personal protective measures:
- Limit the time spent outside during mosquito season (June - September), especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
- Wear socks, shoes, long sleeve shirts, and long pants when outdoors, if possible.
- Apply insect repellants containing an EPA registered ingredient, such as DEET, to exposed skin when outdoors.
- Reduce mosquito breeding sites by eliminating sources of standing water near your home: remove buckets or cans that could collect water, change the water in birdbaths regularly, or turn wheelbarrows upside down when not in use.
For more information on West Nile Virus, please visit the Douglas County Department of Health and Human Services website at www.douglascountywi.org or call (715) 395-1304.