Lancaster County Health Department calls for precaution during West Nile virus season

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is asking residents to protect themselves during West Nile virus season.

The department says taking extra precautions will help people protect themselves from mosquito bites and prevent the spread of the virus throughout the community.

Recently, Hall County mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus.

Although the virus has yet to be identified in mosquitoes in Lancaster County this season, the risk of transmission is highest in mid to late summer.

People are at risk of contracting the virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito, the department said.

The population is invited to reduce mosquito breeding areas by taking the following measures:

  • Empty small paddling pools daily and properly maintain pools
  • Remove debris, weeds and litter from drainage routes
  • Change birdbath water weekly and pet bowls daily
  • Store tires, buckets and containers where they cannot collect water
  • Fill low points in courses
  • Maintain garden ponds and fountains to keep water flowing

Residents are urged to avoid mosquito bites by following these precautions:

  • Limit time outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks outdoors when mosquitoes are active
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent when spending time outdoors, such as those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon and eucalyptus oil, para-menthane diol, or 2-undecanone.

Most people infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms. About one in five people will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

Most people with this type of West Nile virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Less than 1% of those infected will develop a serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Mid to late summer is also the peak season for tick-borne diseases in Nebraska.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking these steps to prevent tick bites:

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents
  • Treat dogs and cats against ticks according to the recommendations of the veterinarian
  • Check yourself for ticks, especially if you’ve been outdoors
    • Be sure to check in and around the hair, under the arms, inside the navel, behind the knees, between the legs and around the waist.
  • Shower shortly after being outdoors

If you end up with an embedded tick, removal is easy and can be done without seeing a doctor.

To remove a check mark:

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible
  • Use fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, even pressure.
  • Avoid folk remedies such as using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to loosen the tick from the skin.
  • After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, iodine scrub, or soap and water.

For questions about West Nile virus, ticks, mosquito control, standing water, or to file a complaint about a mosquito breeding site, contact the Health Department at 402-441-8002.

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