ST. PAUL, Minn. -- State health officials confirm Minnesota is following a national trend of a big year for West Nile Virus.
So far this year, the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed 14 human cases of West Nile Virus. They've also confirmed 10 positive cases among blood donors; those cases reflect people who have West Nile in their bloodstream but have not fallen ill with the virus.
"What we're seeing is probably more West Nile Virus activity than we've seen in the last five years," said Dave Neitzel, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Neitzel says the number of cases do fall short of record years -- there were 148 cases in 2003 and 101 cases in 2007. But, he said, it's likely fewer people are getting tested this year than in the past.
Neitzel attributes the surge to an especially warm summer.
"The virus is able to grow more quickly in mosquitoes in a warm year, and in a warm year we also have a lot more generations of mosquitoes," he said.
Meantime, Mark Schiefelbein of Edina offers some warnings of his own.
Schiefelbein represents the first official case of West Nile Virus back in 2002.
"I had a pronounced heavy headache and fever and pain right along the side of my neck," he said from his home in Edina.
"Err on the side of caution. Bring bug spray. make sure you're protecting the young and the elderly and yourself at the same time," he said.
Experts recommend using mosquito repellent with 30 percent DEET or DEET equivalent.
Experts also note that the disease could become West Nile Encephalitis, which may involve a swelling of the brain and permanent nervous system damage. So far in Minnesota, 15 people have died from the disease.
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