First cases of West Nile virus confirmed in Minnesota

- The Minnesota Department of Health confirms two people have contracted West Nile Virus making for the first cases of the 2016 season.

Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz says the first confirmed case was a woman in her 50’s from Clay County who contracted a mild fever from the virus.  The second victim is a man from Kandiyohi County who came down with more severe symptoms.  Schultz says the cases are right on target for a typical West Nile season.

Entomologists who track mosquito hatchings say recent rains have brought on a spike in mosquito populations.

“When you start getting into August, some of the mosquitos that spread that disease are doing really well,” said Mike McLean of the Minnesota Mosquito Control District.  “They’re starting bite people, so this time of the year is the time when West Nile is becoming more active.”

West Nile Virus was first confirmed in Minnesota in 2002.  Since that time the number of cases each year have varied from a high of 148 in 2003 to a low of just two in 2012.   During the past 14 years at least 18 people have died from the virus.

McLean says the mosquitos which carry the Zika Virus are not native to Minnesota and therefore the threat is nearly non-existent.  But people who travel should be cautious.

“Right now we’re starting to see person to person transmission in the southern tip of Florida,” said McLean.  “It’s an issue in Puerto Rico, it’s an issue throughout Caribbean, Mexico.  It’s a serious he health threat and people should start taking it seriously when traveling and knowing what precautions to take when they get there.”

Prevention is as simple as bug repellant.  But in addition to West Nile, Minnesotan also have to prevent against the La Crosse Encephalitis Virus.  McLean says the mosquitos that carry that virus live and breed in the junk people leave outside around their house and encourages people to clean up anything around the house that can contain and store water.

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