South Dakotans still suffer from West Nile Virus

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - West Nile Virus. We hear about it all the time. We know that in South Dakota you are at the highest risk to contract the virus than any other state- but what exactly is West Nile?

The big question- how do you get West Nile Virus? It's most commonly spread from infected mosquitoes when they bite you. About 80 percent of people who have West Nile show no symptoms, and don't even know they have the virus. The other 20 percent do show symptoms and in some cases, can have a serious neurological illness.

"It can also cause encephalitis, which is a brain inflammation or meningitis which is inflammation of the lining around the spinal cord and brain and so those incidents are only about 1 percent of all infections with West Nile Virus," says Dr. Nancy Babbitt with Creekside Medical Clinic.

If you show symptoms, expect headaches, fever, body aches and even rashes about a week after being bitten.

"There's no treatment for West Nile Virus. There's no vaccination for humans for West Nile Virus. So if you happen to be an unlikely person that gets very ill with West Nile Virus, generally you're hospitalized and just treated for the symptoms," says Babbitt.

So how do you protect yourself from contracting the virus- wear lighter clothes and don't be out from dusk til dawn- this is when you have the highest chance to contract West Nile.

"Make sure that you're not surrounded by mosquitoes at your home by having a lot of areas where there's standing water. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus will typically harbor in stagnant water," says Babbitt.

When purchasing bug spray, it's important to make sure it has DEET. This ingredient is toxic to bugs if ingested.