North Dakota's first human West Nile case confirmed in Grand Forks County

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--North Dakota confirmed Friday its first human case of West Nile virus for the 2016 season, but the discovery is not unusual for this time of year, health officials said.

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-North Dakota confirmed Friday its first human case of West Nile virus for the 2016 season, but the discovery is not unusual for this time of year, health officials said.

The virus was discovered in a Grand Forks County woman who's in her 30s, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. The patient was not hospitalized for her illness.

West Nile also was detected this year in two crows and a mosquito pool in Grand Forks County. One crow from Richland County tested positive for the virus.

The confirmation of a human case for West Nile this time of year is typical, said Laura Cronquist, a surveillance epidemiologist for the Health Department's Division of Disease Control. North Dakota reported 23 positive human cases for the virus last year. Of those, eight patients were hospitalized, and a 23-year-old woman from St. Michael, N.D., died. St. Michael is about 10 miles south of Devils Lake.

"Most people who contract West Nile don't actually have any symptoms of disease," Cronquist said. "Only 20 to 30 percent of people (who contract West Nile) will have symptoms, and those symptoms will be quite mild."


Common symptoms include fever, headache, body aches and rash, but those with more severe symptoms may experience a stiff neck, confusion, paralysis, coma and death.

Grand Forks County's first 2015 human case of West Nile was confirmed in late August, but last year's first North Dakota case was confirmed in mid-July in a 40-year-old McLean County resident.

The Grand Forks Public Health Department, which has sprayed the city for mosquitoes multiple times this year, doesn't plan to change its methods of fighting mosquitoes and West Nile, said Todd Hanson, manager of the city's mosquito control division.

"We operate the program as if West Nile virus is always present," he said.

The best way to avoid West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites, Cronquist said.

"It's especially important for those at higher risk of severe complications such as people over age 50 and those with other medical conditions," she said. "This holiday weekend, many people will be outside during times when the mosquito that spreads West Nile virus is most active."

To prevent mosquito bites, residents should use repellents containing ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite.

Residents also can eliminate stagnant water around homes where mosquitoes can lay eggs. Keeping grass trimmed also will help.

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