DHHS Reports First Two Deaths from West Nile Virus This Season

DHHS Reports First Two Deaths from West Nile Virus This Season
September 15th, 2021 | Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

Lincoln – Two West Nile Virus (WNV) deaths for the 2021 season have been confirmed this week in the Three Rivers District Health Department (3RPHD) that includes Dodge, Saunders, and Washington counties. Both individuals were older adults with underlying health conditions. Three Rivers Public Health Department announced the first confirmed death of WNV within the health district on Monday, September 13, 2021. The second death was confirmed in 3RPHD today.

WNV is the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease in the U.S. with Nebraska having one of the highest rates of disease in the country. Last year, DHHS detected WNV in 21 mosquito samples, reported 15 human cases (10 hospitalized), and confirmed one death. WNV has been detected in Nebraska every year since 2002, with more than 4,000 cases and 86 deaths reported to date.

West Nile virus is transmitted to people through the bite of a mosquito that became infected with the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people who are infected have no symptoms or only mild, flu-like symptoms. However, about 20 percent of people may develop a fever accompanied by other symptoms, such as a headache, body aches, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness.

In less than one percent of WNV cases, the virus affects the nervous system leading to a serious illness like encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues). Symptoms may include neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and even death. People over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to more severe infections of WNV and are more likely to experience serious consequences.

Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Preventive tips:

  • Use an EPA-approved insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil, or IR3535.
  • Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks when you are outside, especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Frequently check around your home for standing water. Drain containers like wagons, bird baths, flowerpots, gutters, and tires. Mosquitoes can breed in small pools of water.
  • Be cautious outdoors until the onset of consistently low overnight temperatures. Mosquitoes will be active until the first hard freeze.

Free mosquito dunks are available to residents of Dodge, Washington, and Saunders County. Mosquito dunks can be picked up at Three Rivers Public Health Department located at 2400 N. Lincoln Ave, Fremont, NE 68025. Mosquito wipes have also been distributed to various community locations throughout the Three Rivers jurisdiction.

DHHS started its West Nile virus surveillance at the beginning of June. To date, 26 mosquito pools have tested positive from 12 counties in Nebraska.

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