West Nile Virus Hits Portage County
By Brandi Makuski
West Nile Virus has been found inside Portage County, health officials say.
Portage County Health and Human Service reported on Thursday the virus was found in a dead blue jay on June 19.
It’s the first bird to test positive for the disease since countywide surveillance for the mosquito-transmitted virus began at the beginning of May.
“The positive bird means that residents of Portage County need to be more vigilant in their personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites,” said Gary Garske, Portage County Health
West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds.
Garske said a series of “simple steps” could help prevent mosquito bites, to include limiting time outdoors at dawn/dusk, when mosquitoes are most active; applying insect repellent to clothing and exposed skin; and ensuring window and door screens are in good shape.
About 80 percent of those infected with West Nile, Garske said, do not get sick. Those who
do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, rash,
Less than one percent of people infected with the virus become seriously ill with symptoms, including high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, mental confusion, tremors,
confusion, paralysis, and coma. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are
at greater risk of developing central nervous system illness that can be fatal.
“The West Nile virus seems to be here to stay, so the best way to avoid the disease is to reduce exposure to and eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Garske added.
Portage County Division of Public Health recommends the following:
- Properly dispose of items around your property that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
- Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
- Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
- Change the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water
from pool covers.
- Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during
hot daylight hours.
- Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people. Last year, 13 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.
To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610.
For more information on West Nile virus: