New cases in 2017

LITTLE ROCK -– The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging people to take steps to prevent West Nile virus infections. Outbreaks of West Nile virus disease occur each summer in the United States.

The first two cases of 2017 were identified in Arkansas late last week.

West Nile virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of these infections usually peak in mid-August.

Seasonal outbreaks often occur in local areas that can vary from year to year. Many factors impact the number of mosquitoes that spread the virus, such as weather and human behavior.

“People should be aware we have West Nile virus in our state and take action to protect themselves and their family from mosquito bites” says Dr. Susan Weinstein, State Public Health Veterinarian.

The best way to prevent West Nile virus disease, and a variety of other mosquito-borne diseases, is to avoid mosquito bites.

Avoid mosquito bites by following these steps:

• Use insect repellants when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. Repellents should be used according to the label instructions. The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET.

• Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.

• Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.

• Reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets and refreshing stagnant water in pools and birdbaths often. Larvicides may be added to stagnant water that cannot be emptied.

Approximately one in five people who are infected with West Nile virus will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or rash. Less than one percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.

People over 50 years of age, and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.

There are no medications to treat, or vaccines to prevent, West Nile virus infection. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care. Anyone who has concerning symptoms should contact a health care provider.

More information is available at