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State Calls For Raised Awareness to West Nile Virus

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PIERRE, SD (KELO AM) – As the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors, the risk of mosquito bites increases, which means now is the time to take precautions to prevent West Nile virus. Since 2002, 2,111 South Dakotans have been reported with West Nile disease and 32 individuals have died. Many more have been infected, but not ill enough to seek medical care. South Dakota cases have occurred as early as June but peak transmission is July through early September.

“South Dakota suffers a disproportionately high number of people with West Nile so we need to take safety measures for the virus every year just as we do for every flu season,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. “West Nile is a serious and sometimes fatal illness, but we can all take easy precautions to prevent it.”

People can prevent mosquito bites and reduce their risk of WNV by:

-Using mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) and limit exposure by covering up.

-Limiting time outdoors from dusk to midnight when Culex mosquitoes are most active. Culex are the primary carrier of WNV in South Dakota.

-Getting rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed. Regularly changing water in bird baths, outside pet dishes, and drain water from other flower pots and garden containers.

-Supporting local mosquito control efforts.

People at high risk for WNV include: people over 50, pregnant women, transplant patients, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure and those with a history of alcohol abuse.

South Dakota cities, counties and tribes can apply for $500,000 in grant funding to help control mosquitoes and prevent West Nile virus. Grant applications are available on the department’s WNV website, http://westnile.sd.gov, and are due June 8. Awards will be issued after July 1.

Courtesy: SD Dept of Health

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