Health officials have confirmed another nine cases of West Nile Virus in Minnesota in just the past week, bringing the state's total number of reported West Nile Virus infections this year to 43, including one death.
Officials say this recent spike pushes the number of infections to the highest the state has seen in five years.
Minnesota's peak year for West Nile came in 2003, with 148 reported cases and four deaths. There are nearly 1,600 cases of the mosquito-borne illness nationwide this year.
Experts say the patients in these recently-confirmed cases were likely bitten in mid-August, but they caution residents that as far as West Nile Virus risks are concerned, they're not out of the woods yet.
Though the threat will drop along with temperatures over the next month as the cold kills the mosquitoes, officials say there is still plenty of time to get sick with a population this high.
Entomologists tell FOX 9 News the type of mosquito that carries the virus is called the Culex tarsalis mosquito, and they jump right out under a microscope due to a white band on its proboscis.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dave Neitzel says so far, the majority of infections have turned up in central and western Minnesota, but eight of 10 infected people will never know they have the virus.
"The good news is: Within a few weeks, this type of mosquito will not be biting people anymore," Neitzel said.
Still, the eggs will still be out there. Cold weather will make them dormant, but unlike the common mosquito, this species does not need rain to reproduce. Instead, any body of water-- like a swamp, pond or lake -- will do.
The elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are the most susceptible to the virus. Those who do get sick often come down with sustained headaches, fever, fatigue and a rash.
The best protection against contracting the virus is prevention. Simple bug sprays with DEET will help ward off the pests.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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