West Nile Virus reaches peak season

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - With the first case confirmed this week, it is peak season for West Nile Virus.

Experts said that the chances of getting it are greatest over the next few weeks. While it can be fatal, the risk of getting sick is not as high as some might think.

The first case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Minnesota is a Pope County woman who showed symptoms Aug. 2 but did not need to be hospitalized.

Epidemiologist David Neitzel with the Minnesota Department of Health said a few more cases could be confirmed soon.

"This is the high-risk time for West Nile Virus," Neitzel said. "There is some virus out there, so if you are out from dusk to dawn it's a good time to wear some mosquito repellents."

He recommends repellents with DEET. He said those with Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus work well too.

Despite the virus being in Minnesota, not everyone who is exposed gets sick?

"The vast majority of people that are bit by mosquitoes carrying the virus, about 75 to 80 percent, have no symptoms whatsoever. Your body fights off the virus and you develop antibodies that protect you for the rest of your life," said Neitzel.

He explained that almost everyone else gets what's called West Nile Fever with bad headaches and muscle aches.

Just a few cases are actually life-threatening. He said it's about one out of 150 infections "that have the more life-threatening encephalitis or meningitis. Those tend to occur in elderly folks."

West Nile Virus also may not be as prevalent this year. "In years when it's cooler than normal a lot like this year, we tend to see fewer cases," said Neitzel.

According to Neitzel, during our hot summer last year, there were 25 confirmed cases of West Nile by this time. So far this year, there has only been one.

Still, because West Nile Virus can be fatal, there were three deaths in the state last year, keep your guard up a few more weeks until mosquitoes go dormant for winter.


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