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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 13, 2008

CONTACT
Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or marla.augustine@dhhs.ne.gov

 

Two New Cases of West Nile Reported

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

The new cases are residents of Adams and Keith counties. Previously reported cases have been residents of Douglas, Merrick and York counties.

"This is the peak time for the transmission of West Nile," said Annette Bredthauer, DHHS public health veterinarian. "We expect an increase in the number of cases reported to us in early September because it takes about two weeks for symptoms to show up. Now is the time to be taking precautions."

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

To avoid mosquito bites, DHHS recommends:

  • Applying mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535;
  • Wearing 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.

Local health departments are helping DHHS collect mosquitoes and birds. The purpose of testing them is to determine the level of the virus in the environment.

"Higher numbers of positive tests indicate that West Nile Virus is becoming more prevalent in the environment, increasing the chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito," Dr. Bredthauer said.

Positive mosquito samples have been found in Chase, Cherry, Dawes, Dawson, Douglas, Hall, Holt, Lancaster, Madison, Phelps, Sarpy, Scotts Bluff and Sheridan counties.

Birds that have tested positive for West Nile have been found in Stanton, Dawson and Lancaster counties.

"While it has only been detected in a few counties, West Nile can probably be found in every county this time of year," Dr. Bredthauer said.

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 www.dhhs.ne.gov.

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