West Nile virus is not that different from LaCrosse encephalitis, which is also caused by a mosquito-borne virus and has long been recognized as a public health threat in this part of the country. LaCrosse causes about five cases of serious illness a year in Minnesota, primarily in the Twin Cities area and the southeastern part of the state.
Symptoms of a serious mosquito-borne encephalitis infection, which generally occur in less than 1 percent of people exposed to the virus, can include headache, high fever, stiff neck, stupor, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
To lower the risk of infection with West Nile virus or LaCrosse encephalitis, officials recommend:
* Avoiding outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most likely to be feeding.
* Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you have to spend time in an area where mosquitoes are biting.
* Protecting yourself with a good mosquito repellent, containing up to 30 percent of the active ingredient DEET.
* Eliminating possible mosquito-breeding sites on and around your property including items like old tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, bird baths, cans and other containers, and anything else that can hold a small amount of water.
(Source: Minnesota Department of Health)
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