N.D. sees steep rise in West Nile virus cases

BISMARCK The North Dakota Department of Heatlh has seen a 95 percent increase in reported West Nile virus cases in the last two weeks. State health officials are reminding people to continue taking precautions against mosquito bites and possible West Nile virus infection.

As of Sept. 18, North Dakota reported 76 human WNV cases, up 37 cases since Sept. 3. In addition to human cases, there have been nine asymptomatic blood donors, one horse, six birds and 20 mosquito pools that have tested positive for WNV.

According to Alicia Lepp, epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health, the majority of cases have been in Cass County with 13 cases, Richland County with nine cases and Burleigh County with seven cases.

“We are continuing to see WNV positive cases being reported,” said Lepp. “Even though the weather is cooling down, people still need to protect themselves against mosquito bites. With fall activities … people need to be aware that mosquitoes will remain active and pose a risk of WNV transmission until the first hard freeze occurs.”

It’s unknown why the cases of WNV are up, but Lepp thought it could be the weather, mosquito numbers or people’s behavior where they think since the weather is getting cooler that they don’t have to protect themselves as much.

The best way to protect against possible mosquito bites or WNV infection is to use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, oil of lemon, or eucalyptus or permethrin when outdoors, Lepp said.

The common symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, body aches and rash. People with even more severe illness may experience symptoms such as stiff neck, confusion, paralysis, coma and even death. Fortunately, most people infected with the West Nile virus develop the less severe form of the disease or develop no symptoms at all.