First West Nile case reported in Lancaster County

Posted By: Channel 8 Eyewitness News

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) has received its first report in 2016 of a case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Lancaster County.  The adult male had a travel history outside of Lancaster County, and recent surveillance activities conducted by LLCHD have not yet identified WNV in mosquitoes locally.  But officials urge the public to take steps to prevent mosquito bites because but conditions exist that will likely produce virus-carrying mosquitoes.

“Given the extremely hot weather over the last two months, we are concerned that West Nile Virus activity may significantly increase,” said John Chess, Water Quality Program Supervisor for LLCHD.  “As the summer progresses, mosquitoes are more likely to have WNV, which makes protecting yourself from mosquitoes very important.”

 Chess urged people to follow these precautions:

  • Limit time outside during dawn or dusk.
  • Wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use insect repellants containing DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always follow label directions.

 LLCHD also asks the public to reduce mosquito breeding areas by taking these steps:

  • Dump small wading pools daily, and maintain swimming pools properly.
  • Maintain garden ponds and fountains, and always keep the water flowing.
  • Clear debris, weeds and litter from drainage ways;
  • Change water in your birdbaths weekly and pet bowls daily.
  • Remove vegetation from sewage lagoons.
  • Store tires, buckets and containers where they cannot collect water.
  • Fill low spots in your yard.

 Most people who become infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms.  About one in five will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.  Most people with this type of WNV recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Less than one percent of those infected will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis, the inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues.  The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.  People over age 60 are at the greatest risk for severe disease, but it can occur at any age.

Also at great risk are those with medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease and those who have received organ transplants.  Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months, and some of the neurologic effects may be permanent.  The death rate for those who develop neurologic infection due to WNV is about 10 percent.

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