State health officials say 11 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Nebraska.
Three people have been hospitalized.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Safranek says this is the time of year you need to take preventative steps to avoid West Nile virus.
“This disease really hits its peak every year almost predictably on Labor Day and we’re seeing that climb up to that peak right now,” Safranek tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The state traps mosquitoes throughout the state and tests them every two weeks. Though more mosquitoes with West Nile have been discovered in western Nebraska, Safranek says residents are at risk anywhere you go in Nebraska.
Last year, nearly 200 Nebraskans contracted West Nile. Four died.
Safranek understands 11 cases might not seem like very many.
“But it’s enough to tell us, indeed, mosquitoes are here, they’re biting people. People are getting sick,” Safranek says. “We’d be thrilled to see it plateau at that level and its getting the word out and having people take prevention approaches that are going to keep those numbers down.”
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following to prevent West Nile:
· 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 breed mosquitoes.
The state reports 75 mosquito pools in 14 counties have tested positive for the virus. Those counties include: Adams, Chase, Dawes, Dawson, Dixon, Garden, Garfield, Hall, Lincoln, Madison, Phelps, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan and Webster Counties. No birds have tested positive so far season.
The West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquito bites from mosquitoes that pick up the virus by drawing blood from infected birds. Symptoms mimic the flu. Some people will develop a fever and can have headaches, body aches, vomiting, fatigue and overall weakness. In rare cases, West Nile can cause a serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. People older than 50 and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable.
DHHS is collecting and testing dead birds. Nebraskans are urged to report dead birds to their local health department. Click here to find your local department.
For more information on West Nile click here.
AUDIO: Dr. Thomas Safranek, State Epidemiologist, discusses West Nile viruses. [1 min.]