West Nile virus is a disease spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. In Nebraska, it is spread by Culex species mosquitoes.
Cases of West Nile virus (WNV) occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall.
Anyone can get infected with West Nile virus, but you can reduce your risk of WNV by using insect repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites.
West Nile virus is most commonly spread to people and other animals (e.g. birds & horses) by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds.
There is no evidence that people can get West Nile virus from other infected animals or people, or that people can transmit the West Nile virus to other animals, birds, or people.
Because it is difficult to tell how many mosquitoes may be infected with a virus, it is important to prevent exposure to mosquitoes at all times.
Most people (80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About 20% of people who are infected develop mild symptoms and recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Less than 1% of people who are infected develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system (neuroinvasive). Of the neuroinvasive cases, approximately 10% are fatal. Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 50 years of age are at greater risk for severe illness if they are infected. People with compromised immune systems are also at greater risk.
There is no specific vaccine or treatment for West Nile virus infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms. Most people fully recover from the virus. However, some severe cases may require hospitalization. If you think you or a family member might have West Nile virus disease, talk with your health care provider.
For more information on West Nile virus, contact your local health department or call the DHHS Office of Epidemiology at (402) 471-2937.
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 (June 1 – September 30). At this time dead birds are not being tested.