Health officials warn of high risk of West Nile Virus

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a high risk warning for West Nile virus infections for northwest, south central and southeast Kansas. Northcentral, northeast, and southwest Kansas are at moderate risk for infections.

Already, mosquitoes collected in Sedgwick County have tested positive for West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis virus.

West Nile virus can be spread to people through mosquito bites, but it is not spread from person to person. About 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a severe illness leading to swelling of the brain or brain tissue that can result in death. There are no vaccines or medications to treat it. People who have had it before are considered immune.

St. Louis Encephalitis virus is transmitted by the same type of mosquito that spreads West Nile virus. While most people who are infected with St. Louis Encephalitis virus have no symptoms or only mild non-specific flu-like illness, some individuals can experience serious neuroinvasive illness. Symptoms often include fever, headache, stiff neck, disorientation, and altered level of consciousness. Coma, convulsions, and paralysis may also occur. St. Louis Encephalitis virus has a similar incubation period as West Nile virus, 5-15 days.

KDHE recommends knowing your risk of and take action to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Visit the KDHE website weekly to learn about the current West Nile risk levels;
  • When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient on skin and clothing, including DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
  • The elderly or those with a weakened immune system should consider limiting their exposure outside during dusk and dawn when the Culex species mosquitos are most active.
  • Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
  • Horses can also be infected with West Nile virus. Talk with your veterinarian about vaccinating your horse to protect them against West Nile virus.

Most West Nile virus infections occur in the late summer and early fall. Although there have been no cases reported to KDHE in 2019, there have been over 300 cases of the most severe form of West Nile virus and 30 deaths in Kansas from 1999-2018. The last known case of St. Louis Encephalitis virus in Kansas occurred in 2004.

For questions about West Nile virus or other Arboviral diseases contact the KDHE Epidemiology hotline at 877-427-7317.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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