As of Wednesday, Aug. 22, there were 15 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in the state, but the numbers are on the rise. While the Barton County Health Department said there have been no confirmed cases of the disease within the county at this time, and none are being investigated, one case so far was reported in neighboring Stafford County earlier in August. But Sedgwick County has had the highest number of confirmed cases so far. According to the Sedgwick County Health Department, they’ve seen unusually high numbers of the virus. While there have only been 10 confirmed cases, as of Tuesday there were 47 reported cases being investigated at this time.
Of the 15 total cases statewide, nine were diagnosed with the neuroinvasive disease. Only one death has been confirmed so far.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, neuroinvasive disease cases refers to severe cases of disease that affect a person’s nervous system. These include encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain, meningitis which is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord and acute flaccid paralysis which is an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause a sudden onset of weakness in the limbs and/or breathing muscles. Non-neuroinvasive disease cases refers to typically less severe cases that show no evidence of neuroinvasion—primarily West Nile fever. WN fever is considered a notifiable disease, however the number of cases reported (as with all diseases) may be limited by whether persons affected seek care, whether laboratory diagnosis is ordered and the extent to which cases are reported to health authorities by the diagnosing physician.
For those travelling into areas where the virus is on the rise, some precautions should be taken. The Centers for Disease Control say people get infected with the disease after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes get infected by diseased birds. Therefore, be certain to wear protection against mosquitoes or avoid being outside, and do not handle dead birds. If you find a dead bird, the CDC recommends contacting the local health department for instruction on reporting and disposing of the body. West Nile Virus cannot be spread through casual contact like touching or kissing.
Other Kansas counties with confirmed cases include Trego, Sumner in the west, and Pottawatomie and Douglas counties in the eastern part of the state.