Mosquito control key to preventing West Nile Human West Nile virus cases have yet to be reported in South Dakota this year but detection in horses mean the virus is present, says a state health official.
"On May 15, the state veterinarian reported virus detection in horses in Moody, Lincoln and Roberts counties, more than two months earlier than our first detection last year," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. "That means people need to take preventative measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites."
Kightlinger said many communities are also making improvements in their local mosquito control programs. "At this time last year there were only 23 individuals in South Dakota licensed to do public health mosquito control. This year there are already 170. That's a substantial increase and excellent evidence of how South Dakota communities are responding to the West Nile threat."
Questions about public health mosquito control licensing should be directed to the South Dakota Department of Agriculture at 773-4432.
Dr. Kightlinger offered the following suggestions for individuals:
* Fix screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
* Stay indoors when mosquitoes are biting.
* Wear long sleeved and long-legged clothing.
* Use mosquito repellent containing DEET.
* Keep mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by draining containers that hold water, filling in ruts, checking gutters for pooling water, recycling old tires, and storing usable tires in a shed or garage.
West Nile is a bird disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It was first detected in South Dakota in July 2002. By the end of the year it had been detected in every county in the state. A total of 37 human cases were reported, 14 of which were the most sever form of the disease, meningoencephalitis.
Most people who become infected with the virus do not become ill, said Kightlinger. However, some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and swollen glands or a rash. In less than 1 percent of cases WNV may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. The elderly are at greatest risk of severe illness and death. People with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.
Because dead birds indicate the presence of West Nile virus in a community the department is again testing birds for the virus. "We encourage people to be watching for dead birds in their area, particularly good indicators of West Nile such as crows, blue jays, magpies, hawks, owls and eagles. If you do find a dead bird, call your local county Extension office for help in submitting it to our lab for testing," said Kightlinger.
More information about West Nile Virus is available on the department's Web site at www.state.sd.us.doh/WestNile, the Animal Industry Board site at www.state.sd.us/aib/, and the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service site at http://sd ces.sdstate.edu/westnile/. Extension has also developed a variety of West Nile educational materials including posters, children's activity booklets and wallet cards that are available by contacting a local office or Extension in Brookings at 688-4147.