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The month of May brought rain showers and rising temperatures to North Dakota, creating an environment for mosquito populations to increase. Since mosquito season has arrived, North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) is highlighting West Nile virus (West Nile), a mosquito-borne disease, and best practices in preventing the virus.

In 2023, there were 58 human West Nile cases reported within 19 counties in North Dakota. Of the 58 cases, 26 were hospitalized and two were fatal.

West Nile is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. While there are no vaccines or medicines to prevent West Nile, the best way to protect against the virus is to avoid mosquito bites.

HHS recommends the following tips to avoid mosquito bites and West Nile:

  • Use insect repellent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, 2-undecanone and permethrin (clothing only).
  • Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn. This is when mosquitoes that carry West Nile are most likely to bite.
  • Wear light-colored protective clothing outdoors such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • Eliminate still water in containers around homes where mosquitoes can lay eggs (gutters, buckets, flower pots, old tires, wading pools and birdbaths).
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of residences.
  • Maintain a well-trimmed yard and landscape around residences.

Most people (eight out of ten) infected with West Nile do not develop any symptoms. However, those who do develop symptoms often have a fever with headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

Serious symptoms are rare, but some infected individuals may experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

People over age 60, or those who have underlying health issues are at greater risk for developing West Nile neuroinvasive disease.

Those with symptoms should talk with a health care provider. There are no specific medicines available to treat West Nile. Remember, antibiotics do not treat viruses. Rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain medications may relieve some symptoms.

For more information go to: West Nile Virus | Health and Human Services North Dakota

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