State announces first human West Nile virus case in Ashland County

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MADISON, Wis. (DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES NEWS RELEASE) – State and local health officials announced today that the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) was reported in an Ashland County resident. Health officials are reminding people to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

This is the first case of human WNV illness reported in the state this year. During 2013, 21 Wisconsin residents developed symptomatic WNV infection and two patients died from complications related to WNV infection.

Officials also confirmed that 20 dead birds statewide have tested positive for WNV so far this season. The birds were found in 19 counties throughout Wisconsin. Infected birds serve as an early warning by indicating that WNV is present in an area, underscoring the need for residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

The likelihood of contracting WNV infection is low, and most people infected with the virus will not have symptoms. Those who do become ill may develop a fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, nausea, vomiting, rash, and fatigue that can last a few days. Symptoms usually begin three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, WNV can cause severe disease including encephalitis and meningitis. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. Older adults and people with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of severe illness.

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have WNV infection, contact your health care provider.

WNV is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not transmitted person to person. Although few mosquitoes actually carry the virus, it is important to take steps to minimize your exposure during mosquito season:

• Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Apply insect repellant (sic) to clothing as well as exposed skin because mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
• Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
• Properly dispose of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or discarded tires to prevent mosquito breeding. Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats and canoes when not in use.
• Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
• Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
• Trim tall grass, weeds and vines because mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
• Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Ashland County Health and Human Services will continue surveillance activities for West Nile virus. As part of the surveillance effort, residents are encouraged to report sick or dead crows, blue jays and ravens to the Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-433-1610 through October.

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