West Nile virus concerns

August 31, 2018

In the wake of Three Rivers Public Health Department in Fremont confirming a West Nile Virus death in its district, officials at East Central District Health Department are advising community members to be cautious.

Three Rivers confirmed the death of a 65-year-old patient who died from complications of the virus after being hospitalized for underlying health conditions. The specific area where the victim lived wasn’t disclosed, however, he or she did live within the department’s jurisdiction of Dodge, Saunders and Washington counties.

Because these counties are outside East Central’s territory, Infectious Disease Surveillance Coordinator Dana Spindola said the department doesn’t have enough evidence to confirm if the case is isolated or if its likely for future cases to arise in Columbus and Platte County.

This year, there have been approximately 36 reported cases of the disease in Nebraska resulting in two deaths, according to the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. The virus is commonly carried by mosquitoes, birds and occasionally, horses.

For several years, department staff have monitored mosquitoes for West Nile in the area on a monthly basis. Traps have been placed in five places at golf courses and parks and mosquitoes collected from these traps are shipped for testing.

Caitlin Schneider, chief public health officer at East Central District Health Department, said no mosquitoes have tested positive for the the virus so far in 2018.

Schneider said community members can help monitor the risk of West Nile Virus by reporting any dead birds that do not have any visible injuries.

She said symptoms of the virus are typically neurological. Symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue and headaches where the pain is predominantly located toward the back of the eyes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says roughly one in 150 infected individuals develop severe illnesses which affect the central nervous system and cause inflammation of the brain and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Spindola said symptoms vary from person to person -- some individuals don’t show any signs of being infected.

In terms of prevention, Schneider said mosquito repellent is key, especially during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. She added community members should spray repellent on themselves whenever they’re outside.

Schneider said community members should survey their home and property for stagnant water, as well as monitoring places prone to collecting water because these are typical breeding grounds.

“They don’t need a lot of water to breed or lay eggs,” she added.

Spindola said community members should continue being wary of the risk of mosquitoes until temperatures began to drop around the middle to end of October.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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