The year's first human case of West Nile virus in Minnesota has been confirmed by state health officials.
A St. Louis County man became ill with West Nile encephalitis and meningitis in late May after traveling to south-central Minnesota. He was hospitalized and is recovering.
Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes develop West Nile fever, the less severe form of disease, or fight off the virus without any symptoms.
But about 1 out of 150 people bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes will develop central nervous system disease (encephalitis or meningitis). Approximately 10 percent of people with this severe form of infection die from their illness, and many survivors suffer from long-term nervous system problems.
"Sporadic early-season cases can occur, such as this first 2012 case," said David Neitzel, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist "However, the species of mosquito that transmits the virus to humans is most abundant in July and August. Anyone not already using repellents should begin doing so now to prevent this severe disease."
Minnesota Department of Health mosquito repellent recommendations
Other important steps to prevent mosquito bites and serious illness from West Nile virus include:
Symptoms of WNV disease usually begin 3 to 15 days after being bitten and can include headache, high fever, rash, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions, paralysis and coma.
Information on WNV can be found at the MDH website: http://www.health.state.mn.us/. Further information on repellents is at the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm
People who have questions about WNV can call MDH at 651-201-5414 or 877-676-5414 (outstate) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.