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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2014

CONTACT:
Claire Smith, Department of Health Services, (608) 266-1683
Jody Langfeldt, Dodge County Human Services and Health Department, (920) 386-3674

FIRST BIRD IN STATE TESTS POSITIVE FOR WEST NILE VIRUS IN 2014

Officials Encourage Precautions to Prevent Mosquito Bites

MADISON—State and county health officials today announced that a dead crow found in Dodge County has tested positive for West Nile virus. This is the first bird to test positive for the virus in Wisconsin this year. Although very few mosquitoes actually carry West Nile virus, infected birds serve as an early warning that the virus is present in the area and that people should be more vigilant in protecting themselves against mosquito bites.

West Nile virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus by feeding on infected birds, and then potentially transmit the virus by biting other animals or people.

The Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people. During 2013, 21 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents. While West Nile virus infections in humans have been reported from June through October, most individuals reported becoming ill with West Nile virus infection during August and September.

The chances of a person becoming infected with West Nile virus are low and most infected people will not have any symptoms. Those who do become ill typically develop a fever, headache, body aches, and swollen lymph glands that last a few days. Nervous system involvement may occur in a small percentage of infected people. Symptoms may begin 3 to 15 days after an individual is bitten by an infected mosquito. Older adults and people with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of severe disease caused by the virus. There is no specific medication to treat West Nile virus infection other than supportive treatment to help alleviate symptoms. If you think you may have a West Nile virus infection, contact your health care provider.

Measures to help decrease exposure to mosquitoes and prevent West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne infections include:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply insect repellant to clothing as well as exposed skin.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding sites by properly disposing of items that hold water such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use so they will not collect water.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

Statewide surveillance activities related to West Nile virus began on May 1. People who have a question about a dead bird should call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. People should not handle dead birds with their bare hands, but should use gloves or a clean plastic bag to pick up the bird. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to get their horse vaccinated against West Nile virus or if they suspect their horse is ill with West Nile virus infection.

For more information on West Nile virus, go to dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/ArboviralDiseases/WestNileVirus/Index.htm

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Last Revised:  May 19, 2014