West Nile virus detected in fifth south-central Wisconsin county

West Nile virus detected in fifth south-central Wisconsin county

The West Nile virus has now expanded to its fifth South-Central Wisconsin county, with a red-tailed hawk in Walworth County testing positive for the disease this week.

During the last decade, the number of West Nile virus cases has spiked in August, with 86 cases reported in that month, compared to just 16 in July in Wisconsin.

This year, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health said the virus has been found in Dane, Columbia, Sauk, Green Lake, and now Walworth counties. So far, it’s only been reported in birds, not people.

But sometimes, it can be hard to tell if a human has the virus. According to the Wisconsin Health Department, the majority of people, 80 percent, who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick.

Those who do usually experience mild symptoms like fever, headache, muscle ache, and fatigue. Less than 1 percent get the most extreme symptoms often associated with the virus: high fever, disorientation, tremors, paralysis, and coma. Older adults are most susceptible to those symptoms.

There are some simple precautions Walworth County Health & Human Services recommends people take to protect themselves:

Limit time outside at dawn/dusk
Apply an insect repellent with DEET
Change bird baths/pet water dishes at least every 3 days
Clean/chlorinate pools, hot tubs, and saunas

After four years with just a handful of cases, the number of birds with West Nile spiked in 2017, with 51 reported cases in Wisconsin.