The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

West Nile a danger, even up north


Associated Press

IN THIS 2009 photo released by University of Wisconsin-Madison, mosquito species Culex pipiens is seen. Mosquito season is off to an annoying start in northern Wisconsin, where the problem has been so bad that one canoeing company has been turning away customers rather than sending them out on a bug-infested river.

HURLEY - With summer comes sunshine, swimming, barbecues, family vacations and mosquitos, lots of mosquitos.

Because of the high-level of mosquitos, people are asked to guard against the spread of West Nile Virus.

According to a press release from the Iron County Health Department, the virus is spread to people by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus.

West Nile Virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda, Africa, and prior to 1999 was only found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

It was first identified in the United States in 1999 and has since spread across the U.S., into Canada and Latin America.

According to Zona Wick, county health officer, there have been no cases reported in Iron County, but a bird was found to be positive with the virus in lower Wisconsin.

If a dead bird is found, the health department picks it up and sends it to the Wisconsin Lab of Hygiene to be tested.

"We only do that once a year," Wick said. "If a bird is found to be positive, we don't test another one because we then know we have it here."

Wick believes the virus is here because of the high volume of mosquitos this season.

Anyone can get West Nile, and older people are at an increased risk of severe disease from the virus.

About 80 percent of people infected with West Nile do not become ill. Most of the remaining 20 percent of people infected may experience a mild illness, which includes fever, headache, eye pain, muscle aches, joint pain, a rash on the trunk of the body, swollen lymph notes, nausea and vomiting.

Less than 1 percent of people infected with the virus will become severely ill. Symptoms of severe illness include extreme muscle weakness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), paralysis and coma.

In rare cases, the infection may be fatal, particularly in the elderly and people with other medical conditions.

Symptoms of West Nile usually occur with three to 14 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.

There is no specific treatment for the virus, and a physician may provide treatment to relieve the symptoms of the illness. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

To decrease exposure to mosquitos, people are advised to limit time spent outdoors at dawn and dusk during mosquito season (June to September) or other times mosquitos are active.

Wearing shoes, socks, long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors can prevent exposure to mosquitos and applying insect repellents to exposed skin and clothing can also help.

Make sure windows and door screens are in good repair to also prevent mosquitos from entering the home.

Another step to avoid mosquitos is to eliminate or reduce mosquito breeding sites, usually in standing water. Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers around the property, remove discarded tires, drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are kept outdoors, make sure rain gutters are clear and drain properly and change water in birdbaths regularly.

Other tips include turning over wheelbarrows, wading pools and boats when not in use; clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers and use landscaping to eliminate standing water.

For more information on West Nile Virus, or to report a dead bird, call the Iron County Health Department at 715-561-2191.


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