Sarpy County and the Three Rivers Public Health Department have confirmed their first human West Nile infections of the year, health officials said.

The Sarpy County resident, who is under 40, was not hospitalized, according to the Sarpy/Cass Health Department.

The Three Rivers department, which covers Dodge, Saunders and Washington Counties, reported two cases, both in the same county. Both individuals were between 30 and 40 years old. One individual was hospitalized and has since been released.

Last year, Nebraska led the nation not only in human cases of West Nile but also in deaths and serious illnesses caused by the virus, tallying a total of 288 cases, 113 hospitalizations and 12 deaths. The greater Omaha area was particularly hard-hit in 2018.

So far this year, cases of the virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, have mounted far more slowly. Nebraska had recorded 16 cases, three hospitalizations and one death as of Wednesday. Douglas County had its first human case in July.

Typically, the Sarpy/Cass department sees an average of four West Nile virus cases a year.

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Health officials said it’s important for people to know how to protect themselves from becoming ill. The best way is to avoid mosquito bites.

Most people infected with West Nile have no symptoms or mild ones such as a fever, headache and rash. About one person in 150 will develop a serious illness.

In Nebraska, most infections occur from June through September. Cooler weather, particularly a hard frost, typically puts an end to the mosquito season and, with it, transmission of West Nile. However, a first frost is most likely still weeks away.

To protect against West Nile, health officials recommend:

  • Minimizing activity outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, following label instructions.
  • Wearing loose, long-sleeved shirts and pants, shoes and socks when outdoors.

To keep down mosquito numbers near homes:

  • Remove standing water and empty buckets and pet dishes daily and bird baths weekly.
  • Clear weeds and other obstructions that can keep water from draining.
  • Follow proper swimming pool maintenance and keep water moving in ponds and fountains.

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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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