Public health officials have confirmed this year’s first human case of West Nile virus in Walworth County.

In response, state and local health officials are reminding residents to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites, which is how the disease is contracted, according to a news release from the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services.

Chances of being infected are low. Most infected people won’t have any symptoms, which typically include fever, headache and rashes that develop three to 15 days after a bite from an infected mosquito.

In rare cases, severe symptoms are possible. Those include muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of severe symptoms, according to the release.

No treatment exists for West Nile virus other than treating symptoms. The health department advises residents to contact their doctors if they think they have the virus.

In 2002, Wisconsin documented the first people in the state infected with West Nile virus, and 52 cases were reported that year. In 2016, the state reported 13 cases of the infection.

Human infections have been reported from June through October, but most report becoming ill in August and September, according to the news release.

Chances of mosquito bites are low in winter, but health officials say residents should take steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding during the spring thaw. These include:

  • Limiting time outside during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Applying approved insect repellent on exposed skin and clothes.
  • Making sure window and door screens are in good condition.
  • Discarding items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic bottles, ceramic pots and discarded tires.
  • Cleaning roof gutters and downspouts to maintain proper drainage.
  • Turning over wheelbarrows, wading pools and boats when not in use.
  • Changing water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Cleaning and chlorinate swimming pools and hot tubs, and draining water from pool covers.
  • Trimming tall grass and weeds where mosquitoes rest during the day.
  • Landscaping to prevent water from pooling.

For more information, visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/arboviral/westnilevirus.htm or contact Walworth County Public Health at 262-741-3140 or walcoph@co.walworth.wi.us.

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