West Nile virus reported in area

West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness.

Experts believe West Nile virus is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

West Nile virus affects the central nervous system. Symptoms vary.

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected will display symptoms which can include fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have been sick for several weeks.

Approximately 80 percent of people (about four out of five) who are infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms at all.

West Nile virus is usually spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes are West Nile virus carriers that become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread West Nile virus to humans and other animals when they bite.

Marinette County Public Health Department officials report a dead crow/blue jay found in Marinette County on July 11 has tested positive for West Nile virus.

This is the first bird that tested positive for West Nile virus in Marinette County since surveillance for the mosquito-transmitted virus began May 1.

“The positive bird means that residents of Marinette County need to be more vigilant in their personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites. This has been especially challenging due to the mosquito population this season,” Mary Rosner, Marinette County Health Officer said.

“Marinette County residents should be aware of West Nile virus and take some simple steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” Rosner said. “The West Nile virus seems to be here to stay, so the best way to avoid the disease is to reduce exposure to and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”

Marinette County Public Health recommends the following:

– Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

– Apply insect repellant to clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.

– Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.

– Properly dispose of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.

– Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.

– Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.

– Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.

– Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.

– Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.

– Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The majority of people (80 percent) who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick.

Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, and fatigue.

Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors, confusion, paralysis, and coma.

Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of developing central nervous system illness that can be fatal, Rosner said.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people.

During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year.

During 2013, 21 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.

West Nile virus infections in humans have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season.

To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.

In Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/westnilevirus.