Human case of West Nile Virus identified in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- The rain may be long gone from August, but the wet weather is still taking its toll in the form of swarms of mosquitoes. The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) has identified the first probable human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) this year, and there's a good chance others are infected.

“Although summer is winding down, it is important that residents remain vigilant about preventing mosquito bites,” said Commissioner of Health Jeanette Kowalik “The risk of getting WNV is present anytime that mosquitos are active.”

According to the Milwaukee Health Department, most West Nile Virus human cases in Wisconsin occur during the months of August and September. Symptoms include: fever, rash, headache and joint pain. The chances of a person contracting West Nile Virus are low and most people infected will not have any symptoms.

Angie Hagy

"There are people who get really sick. Those are the people about one in 150 who get the severe inflammation in the brain and in the spinal cord," said Angie Hagy, director of the Disease Control and Environmental Health division within the health department.

It has the potential to be deadly. Easing fears, health officials say most people who get West Nile will never know it.

"The vast majority of people who get West Nile don't develop any symptoms at all," Hagy said. "About one in 50 will actually develop symptoms and those are generally pretty mild.

Symptoms may begin between three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, West Nile Virus can cause severe disease with symptoms such as muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. Older adults and people with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of severe disease from the virus.

West Nile Virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not transmitted person to person.

The Milwaukee Health Department reminds individuals to take steps to prevent mosquito bites, including:

  • Limiting time outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitos are most active.
  • Applying an insect repellant with DEET, IR 3535, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothing as well as exposed skin.
  • Preventing mosquitos from breeding by removing stagnant water from areas such as flowerpots, plastic containers, gutters and downspouts. Water in birdbaths and pet dishes should be changed at least every three days. Swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs should be cleaned and chlorinated.
  • Trimming tall grass, weeds, and vines as mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours, and landscaping to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.
  • Mosquito-proofing your home by fixing holes in screens, windows, and doors.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have West Nile virus infection, contact your healthcare provider.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit www.milwaukee.gov/westnilevirus.