ST. PAUL (AP) -- Tests confirm 17 birds and seven horses in Minnesota have been infected with the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus, the state Health Department said Monday.
The birds were found in seven different counties: six in Hennepin, four in Stearns, three in Ramsey and one each in St. Louis, Swift, Mille Lacs and Kandiyohi. The horses were in Beltrami, Clay, Grant, Hennepin, Lac Qui Parle, Roseau and Stearns counties. Four of the horses have died or been euthanized.
"This suggests that the virus is fairly widespread throughout the state, as we suspected it would be," said Dave Neitzel, an epidemiologist for the department.
Mosquitoes spread West Nile from infected birds to humans, who can then develop deadly encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. Humans cannot pass the virus to each other. Symptoms are similar to the flu, including fatigue and fever.
Health officials reiterated Monday that the risk of any one person developing the illness is very small. Even if someone is bitten by an infected mosquito, only about 1 in 150 will become seriously ill.
Nationally, 34 states and the District of Columbia have detected the virus this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The state health department will continue testing dead birds for West Nile as part of its routine surveillance of the virus.
No human cases have been reported in Minnesota.
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