Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- The first human case of West Nile virus in Minnesota has been confirmed, right here in the Northland.
A St. Louis County man has tested positive for West Nile after he became ill with meningitis in late May after traveling to south-central Minnesota. He was hospitalized and is recovering.
State health officials are urging Minnesotans to protect themselves from mosquitoes from now through the autumn frost.
To protect themselves from this potentially life-threatening disease, Minnesotans should routinely use mosquito repellents and take other simple precautions against mosquito bites.
David Neitzel, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist specializing in diseases carried by mosquitoes, said that the highest risk for West Nile is expected from mid-summer through early autumn.
"Sporadic early-season cases can occur, such as this first 2012 case," Neitzel said. "However, the species of mosquito that transmits the virus to humans is most abundant in July and August. Anyone not already using repellents should begin doing so now to prevent this severe disease."
About 1 out of 150 people bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes will develop a central nervous system disease such as encephalitis or meningitis.
Symptoms of West Nile usually begin 3 to 15 days after being bitten and can include headache, high fever, rash, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions, paralysis and coma.
Approximately 10% of people with this severe form of infection die from their illness, and many survivors suffer from long-term nervous system problems.
Fortunately, most people bitten by infected mosquitoes develop West Nile fever, the less severe form of disease, or fight off the virus without any symptoms.
For those who do become severely ill, the disease can be devastating.
People can reduce their chance of WNV infection by using mosquito repellents at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
People should also minimize outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, as this is prime feeding time for West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. If you go outside at these times, take precautions even if mosquito numbers seem low; it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit the virus.
It is also advised to wear loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and long pants if you must spend time in an area where mosquitoes are biting.
Since West Nile was first found in Minnesota in 2002, 465 cases (including 15 fatalities) of West Nile disease have been reported to the MN Department of Health.
Posted to the web by Krista Burns