Health Department Urges West Nile Protection

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- The Douglas County Health Department says 52 people from across Douglas County have been infected with the West Nile Virus this year, more than seven times the number from all last season.

“This is the most active year for West Nile virus in at least a decade,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said.

Everyone has a role to play and here are some ways you can help prevent mosquito bites:

  • Remove standing water or report it to the Health Department for treatment.
  • Wear loose, long-sleeved shirts, plus pants, shoes and socks when outdoors.
  • Apply a CDC approved mosquito repellant. That includes many with DEET but others are approved – check the label for that information.
  • Limit outdoor activity between dawn and dusk when mosquitos that carry West Nile are most active, but remember mosquitoes can bite during any part of the day.

Two deaths linked to the virus have been reported in the state, including one Douglas County resident. Of the 22 confirmed cases, 14 people have been hospitalized including 13 with the more serious West Nile fever. That is a severe illness that affects the central nervous system such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms, but about one in five will develop a fever with head and body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks but these individuals generally will fully recover.

The West Nile virus is spread to people through the bites of mosquitoes that have fed on birds that are infected with the disease. Large populations of mosquitoes that carry the virus have been found in Douglas County at 16 potential breeding sites. The Health Department is putting larvicide in known breeding areas to prevent as many mosquitoes from hatching as possible.

“The best way to stay healthy is to avoid mosquito bites,” Dr. Pour stressed. “We know how you can reduce the threat.”