St. Louis County man has year's first case of West Nile Virus in state
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A St. Louis County man was the first person in the state to contract West Nile Virus this year, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.
The man, whose name was not released, became ill with West Nile encephalitis and meningitis in late May, said David Neitzel, a health department epidemiologist. The mosquito-borne virus was confirmed in a laboratory. The victim was hospitalized but is recovering.
It’s ironic that the first case of the year was reported in St. Louis County, since Northeastern Minnesota isn’t prime territory for Culex tarsalis, the mosquito that carries the virus, Neitzel said. It’s believed the man was bitten while traveling in south central Minnesota.
“Culex tarsalis is a mosquito of the open country, agricultural land,” Neitzel said. “Northeast of the Twin Cities, especially up in the Arrowhead, this mosquito is pretty hard to find.”
But that doesn’t mean people in this region should let their guard down when it comes to mosquitoes, St. Louis County Public Health Director Guy Peterson said. He advised the same precautions here as elsewhere in the state: minimizing outdoor activities at dusk and dawn and using repellents such as those containing DEET if you do go out, and wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and long pants if you must spend time in an area where mosquitoes are biting.
“People don’t seem to get it,” Peterson said. “They don’t realize (West Nile Virus) is a rather new phenomenon. It can kill you. It’s a really bad disease to get.”
Since the first Minnesota case of West Nile Virus was reported in 2002, a total of 465 cases have been recorded, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a news release. Fifteen of those were fatalities.