Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says those numbers were unexpected.
“It is really surprising to us,” Scholten says. “It just shows that you really need to be tracking and investigating and researching these viruses as much as possible.”
Scholten says cases had been decreasing over the past few years, only to take this big bounce. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, as mosquitoes — which carry the virus — need standing water to breed and there been precious little standing water for months.
“Here we are in drought conditions and we are seeing a whole different set of circumstances that are likely causing the West Nile virus to be prolific in mosquitoes and birds,” she says.
Scholten says they are trapping mosquitoes in northeast Nebraska and have not yet had a positive return on West Nile. She says people still need to take precautions against mosquitoes and the chance of infection.
The worst-hit state is Texas with nearly 800 confirmed West Nile cases this year and 31 deaths. Nationwide, there have been 66 deaths, none in Nebraska.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton