First human case of West Nile Virus in Tennessee this year found in Shelby County

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — The first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in Tennessee in 2019 was found in Shelby County, the Shelby County Health Department said.

This the first human case confirmed in the county and the entire state. Four people contracted the disease in 2018, and three of those ended in fatalities.

West Nile Virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in the United States, a release from the Health Department said. The disease is typically spread to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms can range from mild flu-like illness to severe illness with inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.

The Health Department suggested everyone who lives and works in Shelby County to protect themselves against mosquito bites and take measures to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the county.

“Persons over age 50 and those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of developing severe illness if infected with West Nile Virus,” Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said. “Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

The Health Department recommends the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when working or playing outside, especially in the early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear mosquito repellents containing DEET, according to label directions.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.

The following steps can be taken to reduce the number of mosquitoes breeding:

  • Clean rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Discard old tires or store inside where rain water cannot collect inside of tires.
  • Discard tin cans, buckets – any container that might collect water.
  • Empty and refill pets’ water bowls at least every few days.
  • Empty, clean and refill birdbaths, “drip plates” underneath flower pots and small wading pools weekly.

The department found mosquito pools positive for the West Nile Virus in the following zip codes: 38002, 38016, 38053, 38104, 38106, 38108, 38109, 38111, 38112, 38114, 38115, 38116, 38117, 38118, 38119, 38122, 38127, 38128, 38133 and 38135.

The virus is expected to become widespread in the county this fall.

For more information, visit the department’s website.

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