West Nile virus is carried by Culex mosquitoes. It can cause serious disease and death in people. You can find this virus in all the lower 48 states. The Nebraska Department Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Public Health tracks and helps prevent the spread of West Nile virus (WNV).
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop symptoms. Mild cases of West Nile infection can include slight fever and/or headache. Severe infections, which usually occur five to 15 days after exposure, can lead to rapid onset of high fever, head and body aches. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Those at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile infection are people over age 50.
Mosquitoes acquire West Nile virus from infected birds and then pass it onto other birds, animals and/or people. View the transmission cycle of West Nile virus for additional information.
The best defense against West Nile virus is protecting yourself with repellent and not giving mosquitoes a place to lay eggs and develop. Visit the West Nile virus Prevention page to find tips to reduce your risk and control mosquitos.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can potentially cause encephalitis, or a brain infection. Mosquitoes acquire the virus from feeding on infected birds. They pass it on by biting other birds, animals and/or people. It is not spread by person-to-person contact. There is no evidence that people can acquire the virus by handling infected animals.
West Nile virus cases occur mostly in the late summer and early fall, even though the mosquito season technically runs from April to October.
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop symptoms. People with mild infections may experience these symptoms:
Symptoms of more severe infections:
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
There are about 50 different species of mosquitoes in Nebraska. While most do not transmit West Nile virus, several species can transmit it.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around houses. Adult mosquitoes can also find a home in weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires. By eliminating breeding places for mosquitoes, we can go a long way to prevent West Nile virus.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Even a small bucket with stagnant water in it for seven days can become home to up to 1,000 mosquitoes. Here are some easy tips to eliminate standing water:
The best way to defend yourself against the Virus is to use a mosquito repellant containing DEET. The CDC has also approved picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
You do not need to limit any outdoor activities, unless local officials advise you otherwise. However, you can and should try to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. In addition to reducing stagnant water in your yard, make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.
If West Nile virus is found in your area:
Dead birds can be an indication that West Nile virus is present in an area. The general public is encouraged to report dead bird sightings to their local health departments so that these can be tracked across the primary West Nile virus seasons (summer and fall). At this time dead birds are not being tested.
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