Douglas County confirms first case of West Nile virus in 2018

The year’s first human case of West Nile virus in Douglas County has been confirmed, health officials said Monday.

A woman older than 50 was treated for the virus at a hospital and later released, the Douglas County Health Department said.

Russell Hadan, the department’s environmental supervisor, said mosquito numbers are rising in areas that tend to have standing water, where mosquitoes can breed.

County officials collected about 3,500 mosquitoes in an area near 11th and Grace Streets, where there are a number of refuse yards, including old vehicles and tires. While that’s not a record, it is higher than the 300 to 400 insects they usually collect.

“I think the reason for that is we’ve had some pretty consistent rainfall,” Hadan said. “It just leaves those pools sitting there for a longer period of time, creating a breeding ground.”

So far, northeast Omaha is the only area in the county where West Nile-infected mosquitoes have been found. But all collection sites have seen an uptick in mosquito numbers, he said. Crews will be out checking traps this week.

Areas of the county that don’t have pools of standing water probably won’t have as many mosquitoes, Hadan said. However, this is the time of year when mosquitoes start becoming infected with the virus.

“Precautions should be taken, no matter where you’re at,” Hadan said. Those precautions should hold until late October, when mosquito activity declines. Such measures include eliminating standing water wherever possible.

Sixty-eight human cases of West Nile, including two deaths, were recorded in Nebraska last year.

Twelve Iowans were diagnosed with West Nile virus last year, and two of them died, the Iowa Public Health Department said.

In June, officials reported Lancaster County’s first case. And last week, authorities in Iowa reported a death due to the West Nile virus.

West Nile is an infectious disease spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Most people who are infected will have no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms. Some, however, will experience headache, body aches, vomiting, fatigue and weakness, and the disease can be fatal.

People over age 50 and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease and are more likely to experience serious consequences.

To see what types of mosquitoes — and how many of them — have been found in your area, check the health department’s map.

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