Barron County Public Health reports a horse in Barron County tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) on July 20. The WI Dept. of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection reported the positive test result to the WI Division of Public Health.

WNV is spread to humans, horses, birds, and other animals during bites from infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes get WNV by feeding on infected birds. The virus is not spread person to person or directly between animals or between animals and humans. This case confirms that there are mosquitoes in the area infected with the WNV.  Infected mosquitos can spread the virus to people and other animals.

Most people (80%) who are infected with West Nile virus do not feel sick. Those who do feel sick usually have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash, and feeling tired. Less than 1% of people with the virus get seriously ill. These people may have symptoms that include high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, confusion, tremors, paralysis, and coma. Older adults and those with weak immune systems are at more risk of developing brain illness that can be fatal.
 
Because West Nile virus is known to be in our area, residents and visitors should prevent mosquito bites. It is important to contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you have WNV illness.

Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to vaccinate their animals. Horse owners can also protect their horses by removing standing water and keeping animals inside from dusk to dawn.  

Lower your risk for diseases spread by mosquitoes. Limit your exposure to mosquitoes and get rid of mosquito breeding sites. When cold weather arrives, the mosquitoes will die.

Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk. This is when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply a bug spray with DEET, IR3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your home by making sure window and door screens are in good repair.
  • Get rid of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts so they drain properly.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs. Drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines. Mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The Dept. of Health Services has kept track of the spread of West Nile virus since 2001. During 2002, the state documented its first human infections.  During 2017, 51 cases of WNV were reported among WI residents. One Barron County resident had WNV in 2017. Most people report getting sick with West Nile virus in August and September.

The WI Division of Public Health will watch for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.

For more information on West Nile virus: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/arboviral/westnilevirus.htm


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