South Dakotans can do their part to prevent West Nile virus (WNV) by getting in the habit of using insect repellent, says a state health official.
"West Nile virus might seem less of a concern now that South Dakota has 10 years' experience with it but it would be a mistake to think the virus isn't a threat," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. "West Nile virus can be a serious, even fatal, illness and we need to prevent it."
South Dakota has reported 1,759 cases, including 26 deaths, since its first case in 2002. There have been cases in every county.
Kightlinger said the department's surveillance is underway this year as well but all mosquito pools tested so far have been negative for the virus. Nationally, 10 states have reported WNV detections in mosquitoes or animals; only Texas has reported a human case.
To prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of WNV, the Department of Health recommends the following personal precautions:
- Use mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535) and limit exposure by covering up.
- Limit time outdoors from dusk to midnight when Culex mosquitoes are most active.
- Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed.
- Support local mosquito control efforts.
Personal precautions are especially important for those at high risk for WNV – people over 50, pregnant women, transplant patients, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure, and those with a history of alcohol abuse. People with a severe or unusual headache should see their physician.
West Nile cases have occurred as early as June in South Dakota but peak transmission is July through early September.
Learn more about WNV prevention on the department's Website, http://westnile.sd.gov, or the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service site at http://www.sdstate.edu/sdces/issues/wnv.cfm.