First ’12 case of West Nile virus reported

Minnesota’s first human case this year of West Nile virus has been confirmed, the state Health Department said today.

The case involved a man from St. Louis County who developed West Nile encephalitis and meningitis in late May after traveling to south central Minnesota. He was hospitalized and is recovering, state health officials said.

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Health officials urge Minnesotans to protect themselves from mosquito bites from now through the autumn frost.

Although most people who get the disease are mildly ill or have minimal symptoms, a small percentage of individuals can develop central nervous system disease and become severely ill. About 10 percent of those with the worst form of the virus die from the disease and survivors may have long-term neurological problems. The risk is greatest for older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Health officials recommend using mosquito repellents and minimizing outdoor time at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus are feeding most actively.

Repellents containing DEET are considered among the safest and most effective. They can be applied directly to the skin. Repellents that contain permethrin are applied to clothing. Alternatives include repellents containing picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

Since West Nile virus was first found in Minnesota in 2002, 465 cases, including 15 deaths, have been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health.

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