West Nile virus found in two Wisconsin animals

Mosquitos are the primary transmission vector for West Nile Virus.
Mosquitos are the primary transmission vector for West Nile Virus.(Pixnio)
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 10:56 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The West Nile virus is back. State health officials confirmed the virus was found in two animals in Wisconsin. They are the first known cases in the state this year and are prompting the Dept. of Health Services to remind people they need to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

“By wearing insect repellent and eliminating standing water around our homes where mosquitos breed, we can help protect ourselves and our neighbors,” State Health Officer Paula Tran explained, adding that the virus poses a more significant threat to those with compromised immune systems.

DHS reported the virus was found in a bird in Milwaukee Co. and a horse in Trempealeau Co. People cannot contract West Nile virus from other individuals or animals like the ones that recently tested positive. It is most commonly transmitted by mosquitos that have also bitten infected birds.

Since 2017, an average of 20 people in Wisconsin have been diagnosed with West Nile virus each year, with most of the cases coming in August and September. No cases have been recorded so far in 2022, DHS noted.

Four out of five people who contract the virus, however, will not experience symptoms, DHS officials said. Most of the rest will suffer from symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, rash, and fatigue. A small fraction of people (less than one percent) will see more significant signs that could include paralysis or coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to severe illnesses that could even lead to death, the agency added.

DHS offered the following tips for preventing mosquito bites, including (from its release):

  • 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 WNV are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

People who suspect they have contracted the virus should contact their health care provider. Anyone without a regular provider can call 211or 877-947-2211, or they can text their ZIP code to 898-221.