Photo: James Gathany (CDC)
A resident of Ripley County has been diagnosed with West Nile Virus — the first reported human case in 2013.
An epidemiologist says there’s no reason to panic, but it’s still smart to avoid mosquitos.
“So far this year, we have had ten batches of mosquitos that have turned positive,” says Dr. Jennifer House, director of the health department‘s Zoonotic and Environmental Epidemiology Division.
West Nile Virus originated in Africa and first showed up in the U.S. in 1999. The virus can causes two different diseases in people. The milder West Nile fever is characterized by fever and symptoms similar to influenza. But the second type, which is neuro-invasive, can be fatal.
“That means it actually gets into the brain, causes swelling in the brain, and potentially can cause meningitis or encephalitis,” says House.
House says it’s too early to tell how many people could be affected by West Nile this year. She says the best way to safeguard against disease is to take basic precautions against mosquito bites, such as applying bug repellent with DEET to exposed skin when outside. House also suggests removing pools of water from property, as mosquitos can reproduce in a teaspoon of water.