HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reports another resident has tested positive for West Nile virus and required hospitalization. This brings the total this season to four human cases reported to the health district, which encompasses Adams Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties.
Michele Bever, SHDHD’s executive director, said the health department worked with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NE DHHS) for trapping and testing mosquitoes in Adams County this year. “Mosquitoes were trapped then tested at the state lab every other week from June through September, resulting in three collections of mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus,” she said. “Mosquito trapping and testing has ended for this year, but West Nile season is not over as long as the mosquitoes are still out.”
“West Nile Virus is considered to be endemic, established in Nebraska, so the best defense against it is prevention,” Bever said. “West Nile virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The best way to fight back is to use an insect repellant with DEET any time you are outside,” she said.
According to the NE DHHS West Nile Surveillance webpage, there have been 86 cases of West Nile illness logged to date this year in Nebraska. Fifty-two of these were neuro-invasive (affecting the brain), forty-six were hospitalized, and five resulted in death.
Jessica Warner, SHDHD’s disease surveillance coordinator said symptoms of a West Nile infection can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes a rash on the chest, stomach and back. These symptoms typically last a few days. “Approximately one in every one-hundred-fifty people will develop severe illness. These symptoms may last several weeks and the neurological effects can be permanent and even fatal,” she said. Symptoms of severe illness may include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, paralysis, and coma.
Warner recommends that people remember the “D” words of West Nile virus prevention:
- Dusk to dawn (avoid outdoor activity or take extra care to protect yourself)
- Dress appropriately (long sleeves, pants, socks when outside during the peak hours and locations of mosquito activity)
- DEET (in your mosquito repellent)
- Drain standing water (around your home to disrupt the breeding cycle of mosquitoes)
“Use these simple precautions to help prevent mosquito bites and avoid West Nile illness,” Warner said. “Take steps to ‘fight the bite’ and protect yourself and your family from this infection,” she said.
For more information call South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or toll free at 1-877-238-7595 or visit the SHDHD website: www.southheartlandhealth.org.