Advice Offered on How to Avoid West Nile Virus
July 21, 2003
Gareth R. Johnson, Administrator, Dane County Public Health, 242-6511 or 334-5875 (cell)
Sharyn Wisniewski, Dane Co. Executive’s office, (608) 267-8823
With the state’s first 2003 confirmed report of West Nile virus in a bird occurring this month in Milwaukee County, and another in Outagamie County, Dane County public health officials are reminding people about the danger of the disease and how they can protect themselves.
Last year, there were three human deaths in Wisconsin attributed to West Nile virus, including one in Dane County. “We’ve seen first hand in our community that this virus can be deadly,” said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “Fortunately, there are some basic steps we can all take to reduce our chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito and contracting the virus.”
Staying indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active is advised. If you must be outdoors, wear protective clothing such as long pants, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, and socks. Also, consider using an insect repellant containing DEET. Make sure to follow all label directions when using insect repellent. It is particularly important to exercise caution when applying insect repellents to children.
Windows and door screens should be kept in good repair to keep mosquitoes from entering your home. People should also eliminate outdoor containers and old tires from their property that might hold standing water and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Humans who contract West Nile may experience mild symptoms including headache, fever, muscle pains, a skin rash, or swollen lymph nodes. In rare instances, WNV causes more serious disease with symptoms of a high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and in some cases, death. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill from WNV.
Even in areas where WNV has been found, very few mosquitoes become infected with WNV and less than 1% of people bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito will become sick. When illness from a WNV infection does occur, it takes from 3 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito for symptoms to appear.
“There is no vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in humans or specific treatment for those infected with WNV, but physicians may provide supportive care to patients to minimize symptoms of the infection,” said Dane County public health administrator Gareth Johnson. “If you think you may have been infected with WNV, contact your physician.”
In 2002, a total of 52 Wisconsin residents became ill from West Nile virus. The virus was also found in birds in 65 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. More information on West Nile virus can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services website at
The West Nile Virus Hotline for reporting dead crows, blue jays and ravens is: 1-800-433-1610.