August 27, 2019
PREVENT MOSQUITO BITES TO AVOID WEST NILE
ThedaCare Provider Says Repellent is Necessary While Visiting Areas Known to Have Virus
APPLETON, Wis. – Mosquito bites are about as common to Wisconsin summers as hot dogs, days at the lake and fireworks. Those bites have possibly lost their itchy innocence as West Nile Virus gains a foothold in Wisconsin.
“Unfortunately, West Nile is present throughout the country and it is something on our minds during the summer months,” said Dr. Corinne Klein, an infectious disease specialist with ThedaCare Physicians Infectious Diseases in Appleton. “If you spend time outdoors, you should be aware of the dangers.”
While West Nile Virus (WNV) is not a common disease, it has been detected in the state and has impacted people in southern Wisconsin as well as Brown County, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. While few mosquitos carry the virus, it’s important to protect against mosquito bites as there are no vaccines to protect against the disease.
According data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the first case of West Nile virus in humans was reported in 2002 in Wisconsin. In 2018, Wisconsin had 33 probable and confirmed cases of West Nile virus. Since 2002, the state averages 19 reported cases of West Nile virus each year.
“Mosquitos can transmit the virus to people quickly,” Dr. Klein said. “It’s not the same as with a tick bite, where the tick needs to be on your body for a long time before transmitting disease.”
West Nile impacts the central nervous system, leaving people with symptoms of fever and acute confusion that can develop within 48 to 96 hours of being bitten by an infected mosquito, Dr. Klein said. While it is described as a type of encephalitis, it does not present like meningitis with neck stiffness, but rather fever and acute mental status changes, such as confusion. West Nile is diagnosed through a lumbar puncture to test the cerebral spinal fluid.
“One of the concerning parts about West Nile is there aren’t a lot of good treatment options for it,” Dr. Klein said. “We can, however, provide supportive care and offer physical therapy in recovery.”
West Nile can be a debilitating virus, with about a third of patients failing to regain full normal function within a year of contracting the disease. They can experience ongoing trouble with motor function and some cognitive decline, resulting in a loss of independence.
Those who tend to be impacted more strongly are young children and seniors older than 65. Patients who see a provider early during the onset of symptoms may experience better results, Dr. Klein said.
“If you have a person in your life who is experiencing fever and confusion that can’t be explained by anything else, and has had outdoor exposure, bring them in for an evaluation,” she said. “Early detection is important for better outcomes.”
The best way to prevent West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites. That means staying covered up while outdoors, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using mosquito repellent. Repellents containing Deet are the most effective at deterring mosquitos.
People also can protect their properties by eliminating sources of standing water, such as water in buckets or barrels, which can attract the breed of mosquito that carries the virus.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.
Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.