While Labor Day is often seen as the end of summer, mosquito season is still far from over.
Only a few West Nile virus infections are reported in Nebraska this year, but health officials warn we shouldn’t let down our guard.
Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says mosquitoes that carry West Nile will be active until the first hard frost.
“From now until then, West Nile virus is usually blossoming and popping up in various places,” Scholten says. “We need to take precautions.”
Scholten says the number of infections has been on a downward trend since West Nile was first found here about 15 years ago.
“Last year, there were many more cases than we’re detecting this year,” she says. “We don’t really know why but we’ll be looking at the data and evidence collected. That’s why we do surveillance so we understand the disease pattern and how it spreads.”
She says the virus can have very serious complications.
“West Nile can cause central nervous system damage, including death,” Scholten says. “We haven’t had a death in Nebraska for a while. We had a lot more deaths early on when the immunity hadn’t been built up. We think there is some now, but it’s still definitely worth our study and watch.”
Scholten says they just recently found some mosquitoes carrying the virus for the first time this summer in a trap near Ponca.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton