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Experts warn of West Nile Virus

Posted at 9:47 AM, Jul 25, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Local experts are urging the public of Douglas County to take preventative care this summer season because of a confirmed West Nile Virus case.

The West Nile Virus is contracted through mosquitoes who feed off of infected birds, according to the Douglas County Health Department. Once a human gets stung by an infected mosquito, they can contract the virus.

Mosquitoes are also most active in moist conditions, which could be stagnant water small enough to fill a bottle cap. The recent flooding increased the mosquito presence this season, making the chances of getting bit a lot higher.

Most West Nile cases go unreported and unnoticed, but when symptoms do begin to appear, health officials say it is imperative to seek treatment. The Douglas County Health Department reports 80% of people who contract the virus will show no symptoms at all.

Up to 20% of people with West Nile Virus will experience milder symptoms called West Nile Fever. They may experience fever, chills, nausea, body aches, or any other flu-like symptoms.

"Some people come down with what's called West Nile Encephalitis, and West Nile Encephalitis causes swelling of the brain, can affect your spinal column, and usually 1 out of 150 cases of people that report West Nile come down with the West Nile Encephalitis," says Russell Haden, Environmental Supervisor of Douglas County Health Department.

The best way to diagnose West Nile Virus is to go the doctor and get a blood test. Dr. John Horne, CHI Doctor of Infectious Diseases, says "unfortunately there is no treatment for West Nile, so we do our best to control their symptoms."

Experts say there are ways to prevent getting bitten by a mosquito. Dr. Horne says "the best prevention would be, if you're going to be in an area with mosquitoes, to wear a mosquito repellent with DEET and appropriate clothing." Loose long sleeve shirts and pants can protect from a mosquito bite.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30% DEET levels in repellent is effective in deterring mosquitoes.

Haden says staying indoors during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most present, can dramatically decrease the chances of getting bit. He also said it's important to clean out any water around the house.

"The mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus is considered the 'house mosquito' because it finds really good breeding sites in people's backyards," says Haden.

He urges people to look for old tires, little saucers, or anything that can hold water around the house and clean it up.

The Douglas County Department of Health reported that there were 25 severe cases leading to hospitalization or death and 36 mild cases of West Nile Fever in 2018 alone.

Haden adds, "People should know the risk that's out there. There's always a risk that's associated with the West Nile Viru. There is a lot of mosquitoes out there. There's ways to prevent mosquito bites, so I think the public should just be aware of the ways they can help reduce the chances of mosquito bites."