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County resident tests positive for West Nile
August 09, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
The Scotts Bluff County Health Department has reported its first case of West Nile Virus (WNV) for the 2012 season.
Bill Wineman, director of the county health department, said a man in his 50s tested positive for the virus. “He has all the classic symptoms, but wasn’t hospitalized. He’s getting better.”
Wineman emphasized that 80 percent of people who contract WNV will show no symptoms and suffer no debilitating health effects. Significant symptoms will show up in only about two percent of the infected population.

“We’ve had quite a few mosquitoes test positive as well as we’ve gathered samples from across the county,” Wineman said. “It’s that time of year when we start expecting to see West Nile show up. It’s not too much different from past years.”

He added there are lots of theories about the virus, how it’s spread and how it affects people. “In the past when we’ve had hot, dry years, there seems to be more mosquito activity. The virus seems to do better in dry conditions.”

Culex tarsalis is the species of mosquito that carries WNV. It’s a permanent water breeder.
“Even though we haven’t had any rain, the habitat where they breed isn’t affected,” Wineman said. “Between the river and irrigation, they have about as many places to breed as ever.”

Wineman said WNV has been present in the Middle East for centuries. It didn’t start showing up in the U.S. until about 2000 and spread across the country east to west. It’s been endemic ever since and is present in birds and mosquitoes every year.

“We start testing about the first of June and collect dead birds,” Wineman said. “It’s usually in mid-July when the first mosquitoes start testing positive. And sometimes, dead birds will test positive earlier than that.”

The peak time for WNV is August and into the first half of September. People should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. That includes using insect repellent, wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, and avoiding peak times for mosquito activity – a half-hour before and after both sunrise and sunset.
Also, the Culex mosquito isn’t an aggressive biter, so children might not realize it when they’ve been bitten. Consequently, people should keep insect repellent handy, especially if they’re going to be outside away from home.

“This is a disease you should be able to avoid if you avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes,” Wineman said. “That’s why precautions are so important.”
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