West Nile virus cases are up; you can take precautions

Empty water-holding containers like rain barrels, flowerpots and buckets.

The number of West Nile virus cases is quickly rising in the United States. There’s a record-setting number of  cases up to this point in the year since the virus was first detected here in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 4, 48 states had reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes. The CDC received reports of 1,993 cases of the viral disease in people, including 87 deaths.

While more than 70 percent of the cases have been reported in Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan, there have been cases in Minnesota, too.

“Most people — adults and children — who are infected by West Nile virus, show no symptoms at all.  The disease can present like many other viral illnesses with fever, headache, and body aches. Sometimes a rash on the trunk or swollen lymph nodes are seen,” said Dr. William Pomputius, medical director of Infectious Disease and Immunology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “In general, 1 in 150 people may develop severe disease with high fever, stiff neck, and nervous system symptoms, but children are much less likely than adults to have this complication. Parents concerned about their child’s health should see their health care provider.”

The latest report from the CDC serves as a reminder that we should take precautions to avoid the mosquito-borne illness.

The No. 1 way to prevent getting West Nile is to avoid a mosquito bite. We know that’s easier said than done. So, we compiled some tips from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health to help:

  • Eliminate water-holding containers from your property. Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in birdbaths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
  • Use mosquito repellent that contains up to 30 percent DEET (10 percent for children)
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants
  • Avoid outdoor activity during dusk and dawn, when mosquito activity is highest.


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