More cases of human West Nile virus continue to be reported in Nebraska than are expected this time of year, particularly in the Douglas County and Sarpy/Cass counties area.
Nebraska is second only to North Dakota in the overall number of human West Nile virus cases, and Nebraska is first in the number of severe, neuroinvasive cases, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To date, Nebraska has reported 79 cases of West Nile, with 42 of them being neuroinvasive.
The 10-year median for this time of year is around 40 total cases, the CDC says.
Additionally, West Nile virus season in Nebraska has also contributed to 4 deaths, the most in the nation this year, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.
Last year, two Nebraskans died from West Nile.
“Although we’ve had a rather dramatic shift into east-central Nebraska, it’s important to remember that it’s statewide,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, State Epidemiologist for DHHS. “This part of the country is ideal habitat for Culex tarsalis, which is the prime vector for West Nile disease.”
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Only about 20% of the people infected experience symptoms, which are generally flu-like, such as fever and muscle weakness.
Symptoms can be more serious in some cases, including West Nile encephalitis and inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis.
The risk of West Nile virus will gradually decrease through September: however, a risk of West Nile virus infection will remain until the first hard frost of autumn.
Individuals are strongly encouraged to practice proper mosquito prevention anytime mosquitoes are present or likely to be present no matter where they are, to decrease their chances of acquiring a mosquito-borne illness.
Wear mosquito repellent when you go outside. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
Dress in long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when you’re outside.
Dusk and dawn are times when mosquitoes are most active. Limit outdoor activities during these times.
Drain standing water around your home. Standing water and warm weather breed mosquitoes.
All mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle. All mosquitoes go through four separate and distinct stages of development — egg, larva, pupa and adult. The larval and pupal stages are spent in water.
The Culex mosquito does not travel very far, maybe up to two miles from where it was hatched, so you can have an impact on how many mosquitoes are around by limiting the amount of standing water on your property.
Garden ponds, bird baths, pet water bowls, and, specifically for us in Nebraska, irrigated fields are all sources of water in which the Culex mosquito can lay its eggs.
Around the house, one of the most overlooked areas in which standing water can exist is roof gutters.
(Outdoor writer Rick Windham contributed to this report.)