Elderly Nebraskans at risk for West Nile Virus

The Omaha World-Herald reported on the first confirmed death from West Nile in Nebraska this summer. The man who died in an Omaha hospital was over 65.

The man was suspected of contracting West Nile Disease while in Texas, however in mid-July the first case of West Nile was reported in Nebraska by a man in his 70s living in Hamilton County, according to the World-Herald. At that time, infected mosquitoes had been found in Adams, Douglas, Hall, Madison, Scottsbluff, Sheridan and Richardson counties according to the Sheridan County Journal Star. Additionally, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, birds had tested positive for the West Nile Virus in Madison and Phelps counties.

A representative from the State Department of Health and Human Services told the World-Herald that 20 cases of West Nile have occurred in Nebraska this year. Iowa has reported five cases.

Elderly at risk

Only about 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus become severely ill. However, Those over 50 are particularly at risk to develop serious illness when contracting the disease — as are those with immune deficiencies.

Symptoms of West Nile Fever

According to the CDC only 20 percent of those infected with West Nile Virus develop West Nile Fever. Those infected with West Nile Virus often report no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms. West Nile Fever symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • body aches
  • occasionally with skin rash (on the trunk of body) and swollen lymph glands.

Symptoms of Severe West Nile Disease

  • headache
  • high fever
  • neck stiffness
  • stupor
  • disorientation
  • coma
  • tremors
  • convulsions
  • weak muscles
  • paralysis

Preventing West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is spread to people through mosquito bites by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. Precautionary measures should be taken to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile Virus. These include:

  • Using insect repellant
  • Wearing long sleeves and long pants if outside between dusk and dawn
  • Removing standing water in yards from items that might capture water

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