As we enter into the final full month of the summer, South Dakota health officials are confirming the first positive cases of the season of a potentially deadly virus.

The South Dakota Department of Health says the state's first two human West Nile virus cases have occurred in Minnehaha and Spink Counties.

No specifics on either patient were provided other than one was between 40-64 years of age and the other was more than 64 years old.

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Since 2002, South Dakota has reported more than 2,681 human cases and 47 deaths.

In a press release, South Dakota epidemiologist, Dr. Joshua Clayton said:

'West Nile Virus is an infection most commonly spread through mosquito bites. The rate of severe infection that includes swelling of the brain and spinal cord with symptoms of stiff neck, confusion, and muscle weakness is highest in South Dakota and other Midwest states.' 

Health officials recommend four key things to reduce the risk of being infected with West Nile:

  • Apply mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, 2-undecanone, param-menthane-diol, or IR3535) to clothes and exposed skin. Limit exposure by wearing pants and long sleeves in the evening
  • Limit time outdoors from dusk to midnight when mosquitoes are most active. Culex tarsalis are the primary carrier of WNV in South Dakota
  • Remove standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed. Regularly change the water in birdbaths, outside pet dishes, and drain water from other flowerpots and garden containers and stay away from areas near standing water
  • Support local mosquito control efforts

Individuals over the age of 50, pregnant women, organ transplant patients, individuals with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, and those with a history of alcohol abuse are at increased risk for infection.

The South Dakota Department of Health's website has more information about West Nile Virus, including a surveillance page that shows the counties that have reported cases.

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