3 people test positive for West Nile

Three people in a four-county area have tested positive for the West Nile virus, the South Heartland District Health Department reported late Wednesday.

The South Heartland district serves Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties. As of Aug. 28, a total of 22 cases had been reported across the state.

Earlier this summer, South Heartland reported mosquitoes trapped in five locations in Adams and Webster counties had tested positive for the virus.

"West Nile virus is considered to be endemic in Nebraska and the best defense against it is prevention," said Michele Bever, South Heartland's executive director.
The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and the best prevention is to use insect repellent, cover skin when outdoors and stay inside at dawn and dusk.
According to the health department, most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms at all. About 20 percent of people infected experience milder symptoms.

Only about one in every 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms of severe illness, such as meningitis or encephalitis, which can last several weeks and may cause permanent neurological deficits.

The largest outbreak of cases of West Nile virus found in humans in this area came in 2003 when 179 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported in Nebraska.

Currently, there is no vaccine available for humans. Scientists hope to have one available to the public within the next few years.

Meanwhile, Bever encourages people to take the following precautionary measures:
— Avoid being outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
— Use an effective mosquito-repellent, such as one containing DEET, when outdoors.
— Wear long pants, socks and long sleeves when outdoors.
— Drain standing water to disrupt the breeding cycle of mosquitoes.

For information on West Nile virus, contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595. 

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