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First human WNV case reported in Kansas
Local efforts underway to curtail mosquito population
new deh west nile virus graphic
On this Kansas map, the areas in red are at a high risk for West Nile virus. - photo by COURTESY GRAPHIC

 TOPEKA – The mosquitoes are at it again.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Tuesday the first two cases of mosquito-borne neuroinvasive West Nile virus disease in the state. The Johnson County cases join over 30 reported nationwide this year. 

However, the KDHE warns, four regions of Kansas covering three quarters of the state (including Barton and Pawnee counties) remain under a high-risk warning for WNV. The areas include north central, south central, northwest, and southwest Kansas. 

Northeast and southeast regions in the eastern quarter of the state are at moderate risk for WNV infections.

On the front lines

Locally, the Great Bend Public Works Department has been fogging for mosquitoes on Thursday evenings. The last scheduled assault is from 8 p.m. to midnight tonight, weather permitting.

Residents are advised to keep their pets inside and keep their doors and windows closed during this time.

But, city officials said more fogging could be planned if needed.

In the meantime, Great Bend Street Superintendent James Giles said there are things residents can do to help curtail the mosquito population. 

“People need to understand that even a simple plastic bottle cap can be used to raise mosquitoes,” he said. “Anything with standing water can be a problem.”

He recommended getting rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

Giles said the chemical the use for fogging has to be used at night. This is when mosquitoes are most active, and is also when other insects they don’t want to target, such as bees, are not out and about.

Flies have also been a problem.  Giles said the fog would get them as well, but they are also inside at night.

What is West Nile virus?

WNV can be spread to people through mosquito bites, but it is not spread from person to person. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. Roughly one out of 150 infected people develop the more severe version of the disease, neuroinvasive disease, which includes swelling of the brain or brain tissue and, in some cases, death. There are no vaccines or medications to treat WNV. People who have had WNV before are considered immune.

Most WNV infections occur in the late summer and early fall. As of July 24, 39 cases of human WNV have been reported nationally. There have been more than 600 cases of the most severe form of WNV and 30 deaths in Kansas from 1999-2017. 

Symptoms of WNV disease include fever, headache, weakness, muscle pain, arthritis-like pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and rash typically developing two to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. People who are concerned about symptoms should speak with their physicians.   

“Although for most people West Nile virus may not cause a great deal of concern, we encourage residents, especially our vulnerable populations, to take steps to prevent infection because of the potential for complications,” said Dr. Greg Lakin, chief medical officer, KDHE.