Support Salvation Army Wildfire Relief

KS Dept. of Health urges public to take precautions with early-arriving West Nile Virus

OLATHE, Kan. -- When summertime heats up, a public health concern pops up, too.

The Kansas Department of Health says West Nile Virus has arrived ahead of schedule in the Sunflower State, and the public should take precautions.

Any place with standing water is a likely breeding ground. The Culex mosquito is the type that causes West Nile, and health officials in Kansas have discovered the bugs in three counties, including Johnson. That's the public's cue to to be well.

Soon enough, doctors may see a small uptick in patients who don't feel like themselves.

"We know that West Nile Virus is present in this state," Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert with the University of Kansas Health System. He quotes statistics from the Center for Disease control:

- In 2015, only 2,100 cases of West Nile Virus were reported nationally
- Kansas and Missouri had an average of 30 cases each

"When it's your loved one, you're always concerned," Dr. Hawkinson told FOX 4 News.

Patients will complain of fatigue, fever, headaches, and a skin rash. Places like ponds, pools, small lakes and birdbaths are areas were mosquitoes can multiply and add to the problems.

"I think it's important to be vigilant about standing water to help reduce the amount of mosquitoes that are replicating and reproducing," Dr. Hawkinson said.

The early arrival of the bugs surprises public health officials. Nancy Tausz, who works with the Johnson County Department of Health, says the mosquitoes usually arrive at the peak of the season's humidity.

"A lot of people have the disease. They don't even know they have it because the case is so mild," Tausz told FOX 4 News.

Tausz advises people to read the labels on cans and bottles of insect repellent, and to be sure the level of repellent is sufficient for the job.

"When you're outside, wear long sleeve and long pants if you're out in the tall grass. Stay out of the tall grass. If you are out there, cover yourself up," Tausz said.

Dr. Hawkinson says only one out of five people infected will show symptoms. Patients who contact the disease should know, doctors typically treat only symptoms of West Nile Disease. There is no cure for the virus itself. Doctors say it has to run its course, and it will leave the body in its own time.