West Nile Virus detected in two Wisconsin animals

Illustration of a mosquito bite. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Two animals in Wisconsin tested positive for the West Nile Virus, indicating there are infected mosquitoes in the state, according to state health officials. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released a statement Friday confirming a bird in Milwaukee and a horse from Trempealeau County tested positive for the virus. There have been no reported human cases in Wisconsin so far in 2022. 

People and animals can only contract the West Nile Virus after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The virus cannot be transmitted from person to person, animal to person, or animal to animal, according to DHS.

"These cases are a reminder of the importance of taking precautions to protect ourselves from mosquitoes and the viruses they carry, which poses a risk to all Wisconsinites, especially to those who have weakened immune systems," said State Health Officer Paula Tran.

Thankfully, about 80% of people who become infected with the virus do not get sick. However, those who get sick usually have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash and fatigue. Less than 1% of people infected with the virus become seriously ill, according to the DHS. 

Here are tips from the Wisconsin DHS to protect yourself against mosquito bites:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Prior to heading outdoors, treat clothing with permethrin; do not apply permethrin directly to skin.
  • Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning hours, when mosquitoes that spread West Nile Virus are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Make sure window and door screens are intact and tightly-fitted to prevent mosquitoes from getting into your home.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from breeding around your home by removing stagnant water from items around your property, such as tin cans, plastic containers, flower pots, discarded tires, roof gutters, and downspouts.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, kiddie pools, buckets, and small boats such as canoes and kayaks when not in use.
  • Change the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim or mow tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.

In August, Minnesota reported its first case of the West Nile Virus from a horse in Kandiyohi County. The 4-year-old horse was unvaccinated against the virus at the time and was euthanized "due to deteriorating neurological conditions," according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.