Newsroom > DHHS News Release

July 23, 2009

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

Sound bites from Dr. Joann Schaefer can be found at


DHHS: Time to Take Precautions Against Mosquitoes

First Case of West Nile Reported

Lincoln—The first case of West Nile virus in Nebraska this year has been reported in a woman in her forties who lives in the south central part of the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, the first mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile have been found in Madison County.

The virus is likely in other parts of the state, and people should take precautions, said
Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health.

"People should take care 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 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.

Cases by year:

Year Cases Deaths
2008 47 1
2007 163 4
2006 264* 2
2005 188 5
2004 53 0
2003 1,994* 27
2002** 174 7

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


*This number has changed from previous releases because results from laboratories other than the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory have been removed.

**There were no cases prior to 2002, the year the disease found its way to Nebraska from the East Coast.

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