FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2018
Contact:
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

Columbia County Bird Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

State residents are urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites to avoid illness

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reports a dead bird found in Columbia County has tested positive for West Nile virus. This is the first case of WNV activity reported in the state in 2018.

“This case reminds us that West Nile virus is already active in Wisconsin this season, so we all need to take steps to prevent mosquito bites to keep from getting sick,” said Karen McKeown, the State Health Officer.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Wisconsin had a higher than average number of West Nile virus cases in humans, birds, and horses last year. DHS offers these tips to protect against mosquitoes and mosquito bites:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent to clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Properly dispose of items around your property 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.
  • Change the water in bird baths 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.

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, and fatigue. Less than 1% of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis, and coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing central nervous system illness that can be fatal.

DHS has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people. During 2002, the state documented its first human infections with 52 cases reported that year. During 2017, 48 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.

DHS will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.