First West Nile virus related death reported in North Dakota

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Infectious Disease

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) announced Friday the state’s first West Nile virus (WNV) related death in 2021.


As of September 9, 2021, there have been 19 human WNV cases reported in 13 North Dakota counties, resulting in 10 hospitalizations and one death. The WNV related death was a resident in southwest North Dakota and was over the age of 60.


“People older than 60 years, or those who have underlying health issues, are at the greatest risk of developing a severe illness due to WNV infection. The individual’s death is a tragic reminder of how dangerous WNV can be,” said Amanda Bakken, an epidemiologist with the NDDoH.


In 2020, North Dakota had seven cases of WNV reported and no related deaths.


Most people infected with WNV experience no symptoms or have only mild symptoms, such as fever and headache. In more severe types of infection, the virus can cause high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, altered mental state, and death. People with these symptoms should see a health care provider immediately.

WNV transmission usually peaks in late summer in North Dakota. As the year progresses, people may be inclined to skip mosquito protection. However, until there is a hard frost to eliminate the remaining mosquito population, people should continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites. The NDDoH recommends the following precautions:

·         Use insect repellent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that contain ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, 2-undecanone, and permethrin (clothing only). Always follow the directions on the manufacturer’s label for safe and effective use.

·         Wear protective clothing outdoors such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.

·         Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes that can carry WNV are most likely to bite.

·         Eliminate stagnant water in containers around homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs (e.g., gutters, buckets, flower pots, old tires, wading pools and birdbaths).

·         Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your residence.

Maintain a well-trimmed yard and landscape around your home.

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