Lancaster County Health Department urges precaution during West Nile virus season


LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is asking residents to protect themselves during West Nile virus season.

The department says that taking extra precautions will help people protect themselves from mosquito bites and prevent the spread of the virus throughout the community.

Recently, mosquitoes in Hall County tested positive for West Nile virus.

While the virus hasn’t been identified in mosquitoes in Lancaster County yet this season, the transmission risk is highest in mid to late summer.

People are at risk of receiving the virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito, said the department.

The public is asked to reduce the breeding areas for mosquitoes by taking the following steps:

  • Dump small wading pools daily and maintain swimming pools properly
  • Clear debris, weeds and litter from drainage ways
  • Change water in birdbaths weekly and pet bowls daily
  • Store tires, buckets, and containers where they can’t collect water
  • Fill low spots in yards
  • Maintain garden ponds and fountains so that water is always flowing

Residents are urged to avoid mosquito bites by following these precautions:

  • Limit time outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks when outside at times when mosquitoes are active
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent when spending time outside such as those with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon and eucalyptus oil, para-menthane diol or 2-undecanone.

Most people who become infected with the virus 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 West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.  Less than 1 percent of people infected will develop a serious illness like encephalitis or meningitis.

Mid to late summer is also the peak season for tickborne diseases in Nebraska.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking these measures to prevent tick bites:

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents
  • Treat dogs and cats for ticks per veterinarian recommendations
  • Check yourself for ticks, especially if you have been outdoors
    • Make sure to check in and around hair, under the arms, inside the belly button, on the back of knees, between the legs and around the waist.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors

If you do find yourself with an embedded tick, removal is easy and can be done without seeking medical attention.

To remove a tick:

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Avoid folklore remedies such as using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to make the tick detach from the skin.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

For questions about West Nile virus, ticks, mosquito control, standing water or to file mosquito breeding site complaints, contact the health department at 402-441-8002.

Categories: Health, Lancaster, News