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August 6, 2008

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

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One Case of West Nile Added to Tally

Lincoln—One more case of West Nile virus has been reported to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) this week, bringing the total cases reported this year to three. 

The new case is a resident of York County. The two previously reported cases are residents of Merrick and Douglas counties.*

"We have slightly fewer cases of West Nile now than we did last year at this time," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. "However, we are approaching the peak transmission time. Mosquitoes are increasing in number and growing more active. And the percentage of infected mosquitoes is rising."

West Nile is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

Positive mosquito samples have been found in Chase, Dawes, Dawson, Douglas, Hall, Holt, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties. Mosquitoes are tested to see how prevalent the virus is in the environment.

To avoid mosquito bites, DHHS recommends:

  • Applying mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535;
  • Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants and socks;
  • Avoiding going out at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active; and
  • Eliminating standing water to reduce mosquito breeding sites.

There were 163 cases of the disease reported in Nebraska last year. Prior to that, there were 264 human cases of the disease reported in 2007, 188 in 2005, 53 in 2004, 2,177 in 2003 and 174 in 2002. There were no cases prior to 2002, the year the disease found its way to Nebraska from the East Coast.

Most people who are infected by a mosquito have no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms. Less than one out of 150 people who get bitten by an infected mosquito and become infected will get seriously ill. However, people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease and are more likely to experience serious consequences.

West Nile fever includes flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle weakness. Symptoms of the more serious West Nile encephalitis include inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis.

More information can be found on the DHHS Web site at


* The Douglas County case was previously reported in a news release issued by the Douglas County Health Department on July 25.