Herald JournalHerald Journal, August 29, 2004

Summer’s first case of West Nile virus comes from McLeod County

By Ryan Gueningsman

A 28-year-old McLeod County man is Minnesota’s first case of West Nile in a human this year, reported the Associated Press recently. The man has since recovered.

He tested positive after becoming ill in mid-July, but did not require hospitalization, the state Health Department reported last Tuesday. No further information about the man has been disclosed due to data privacy laws, said McLeod County Public Health Director Becky Felling.

“It has arrived,” she of the virus. “People just need to be sure to use mosquito spray and take the necessary precautions.”

The state recorded 148 cases of West Nile in humans last year, including four deaths. Nationwide, almost 10,000 cases were reported, including 264 deaths.

The West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. It’s usually not serious, but can lead to encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, and is more dangerous in elderly people.

State epidemiologist Harry Hull said Minnesota is entering peak time for West Nile in humans, through mid-September, and people should take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

“While it can occur anywhere in the state, western and central Minnesota are at highest risk for West Nile virus,” Hull said.

West Nile is widespread in Africa, the Middle East and much of Europe, and has been in the United States since 1999.

Hull said most mosquitoes don’t carry the virus, and even people who are bitten by an infected mosquito often don’t show symptoms. When seen, the symptoms usually show up from three to 15 days after a bite, and can include headache, high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.

To reduce the risk of mosquito bites, the health department advises several measures:

– Use a good repellent, with no more than 30 percent DEET, while outside.

– Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants if in an area where mosquitoes are biting.

– Avoid outdoor activities at dusk or dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

– Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites such as standing water in gutters, birdbaths, old tires, buckets, etc.

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