Health officials confirm West Nile virus in western Wisconsin horse

Wisconsin health officials say a horse in the western part of the state has tested positive for West Nile virus.

Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed the positive test in Dunn County, saying the results are a sign that West Nile-infected mosquitoes are present in the state and can potentially infect other animals or people.

The positive test is the first reported West Nile infection in Wisconsin this year, and no human cases have been reported yet.

The agency says it’s monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001, and an average of 17 cases are reported among Wisconsin residents each year.

“The positive test in an animal is an important reminder to take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites and potential disease,” State Health Officer Paula Tran said. “I urge Wisconsinites to continue to ‘fight the bite’ and follow our tips to avoid illnesses spread by mosquitoes. This should include applying bug spray before they head outside and removing standing water in bird baths and other places around their homes to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.”

While the virus is only spread through the bite of an infected mosquito — not from person to person, animal to animal or animal to person — the risk of West Nile virus will continue through the rest of the summer.

The good news is DHS says around 80% of people who get infected with West Nile virus don’t get sick and those who do generally have mild symptoms like a fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. However, some people do become seriously ill, and DHS says the elderly and those with compromised immune symptoms face a higher risk of developing a serious illness that can be fatal.

Health officials say the best way to avoid West Nile is to limit exposure to mosquitoes and eliminate any mosquito breeding sites. The agency has more tips for doing that online.