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September 17, 2008

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


Four New Cases of West Nile Reported

DHHS Urges Precautions Until the First Hard Freeze

Lincoln—Four 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 29.

The new cases are residents of Hall (2), Lincoln and Saline counties. Previously reported cases have been residents of Adams (2), Butler, Cass, Cedar, Custer Dawes, Douglas (2), Dodge, Holt, Keith (2), Keya Paha, Kimball, Merrick, Morrill, Nemaha, Platte, Polk, Saline, Sarpy, Saunders, Scotts Bluff and York counties.

West Nile is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Late August is peak transmission time for West Nile.

To avoid mosquito bites, DHHS recommends using precautions until the first hard freeze. Those include:

  • 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.

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.

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.

More information can be found on the DHHS Web site at