West Nile virus increasing threat as summer goes on

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mosquitoes haven't seemed to be that much of a problem yet this year, but we're not sure whether it's because there are fewer of them, thanks to the dry conditions, or because most of us spend as much time as possible indoors when it's 100 degrees outside.

But we imagine the "skeeters" are hard at work reproducing as quickly as they can now that we've had rain, and soon will make themselves felt.

They're already doing so elsewhere in the state. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports that mosquitoes in Adams and Sheridan counties have tested positive for the West Nile virus, as have birds in Madison and Phelps counties.

Many of us have been exposed to West Nile virus, but most of us have no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms.

One in 150 people infected, however, becomes seriously ill, and people over 50, and those with weakened immune symptoms are more likely to have more serious consequences. Those include West Nile encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis.

The state tests mosquitoes and birds to determine the level of the virus in the state. To report a dead bird, contact the Red Willow County Health Department, (308) 345-1790 or Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, (308) 345-4223.

"The virus will show up in more parts of the state as summer progresses, so it's important for people to avoid mosquito bites," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, the state's Chief Medical Office and Director of Public Health.

She offers the following recommendations:

* Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.

* Dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when you're outside.

* Dusk and dawn are times when mosquitoes are most active. Limit outdoor activities.

* Drain standing water around your home. Standing water and warmth breeds mosquitoes.

You can find West Nile case updates and more information on the DHHS website at http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/wnv.aspx.

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