Wisconsin reports first human West Nile virus case this year

CREATED Aug 20, 2014

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Health officials announced the state’s first human case of West Nile virus this year in Ashland County.

According to a press release by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 20 dead birds also tested positive for the disease throughout the state. Vector epidemiologist Diep Johnson said this means people need to begin taking extra precautions against mosquito bites by using insect repellant, securing window screens, and preventing breeding.

“It is important to remove breeding sites, such as containers sitting outside around your house that may be filled with rainwater,” Johnson said. “Just dump the water out every few days to make sure you’re not breeding mosquitoes, and clean your birdbaths and clogged gutters every few days as well.” 

The virus is spread to people through infected mosquitoes and is not transmitted person-to-person.

Last year, 21 people in Wisconsin developed symptomatic WNV, and two died from complications.

Cyndi Zach with Ashland County Health and Human Services says most people with WNV are unaware they have it, and the disease rarely causes more severe conditions.

“It can be serious, especially for people who have underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems, and it can lead to illnesses like encephalitis and paralysis. But this is very, very rare,” Zach said.

Zach said people infected with WNV may have fevers, headaches, muscle aches, and flu-like symptoms like vomiting, rash, and fatigue.

More serious symptoms include high fevers, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma.