Newsroom > DHHS News Release


July 23, 2008

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

A sound bite from Dr. Joann Schaefer can be found at


First Case of West Nile Reported

Lincoln—The first case of West Nile virus in Nebraska this year has been reported in a Merrick County resident, a man between the ages of 26 to 60, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

"It’s the time of year that we can expect West Nile cases because the kind of mosquitoes that carry the virus are growing in number," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health.

The first mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile have been found in Dawes, Dawson, Lancaster and Holt counties in Nebraska.

The virus is likely in other parts of the state, and people should take precautions, Dr. Schaefer said.

"People should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, no matter what part of the state they live in," she said.

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.

In addition to mosquitoes, one dead bird has tested positive—a blue jay found in Stanton County. Dead birds are tested to determine the level of virus in the environment. With the assistance of local health departments, DHHS is collecting and testing blue jays, crows and raptors, the birds most likely to be affected by the virus. To report dead birds that are not decomposed, contact your local health department.

There were 163 cases of West Nile reported last year, with four deaths. The previous year, 255 human cases of the disease. This compares to 188 in 2005, 57 in 2004, 2,366 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


Note: A filler for newspapers with precautions against West Nile can be found at