North Dakota Woman Dies After Getting West Nile

Experts said the woman's underlying medical conditions were a major contributing factor

FARGO, ND — Mosquito bites are itchy, red and usually uncomfortable.

They can also cause an unwanted disease.

A woman in central North Dakota was bit and is the first West Nile related death of the year.

Officials want you to know this is not a common occurrence.

“The likelihood of catching West Nile is still relatively small even though we’re endemic to infections here in this area it’s typically less than a one percent chance,” said Ben Prather, the director of Cass County Vector Control. “I think we get seven to 15 cases per 100,000 in this part of the world.”

They said the woman who died had other underlying medical conditions and was over the age of 60.

Prather said people over the age of 60 who have medical issues are more likely to be affected by the disease.

“Our primary mosquito vector out here in Great Plains is a mosquito called culex tarsalis. We see a fair number of those throughout the course of the year,” said Prather.

Younger, healthy individuals tend to be less effected.

“More than likely your body will fight off the infection. Most people who have been bitten by a mosquito who may have had West Nile don’t experience any symptoms at all,” said Brenton Nesemeier, the North Dakota Regional Field Epidemiologist.

Although it may not be as severe, officials are still advising others to wear protection.

“The prime time for mosquitos seems to be during the months of August and September, so when you’re out during the dawn or dusk during these months, make sure you’re lathering up with some bug repellant,” said Prather.

The West Nile Virus has been in North Dakota since 2002.

This summer, Prather said fewer people are wearing protectant.

“I think the big challenge for this year particularly, we look at central North Dakota, is under a severe major drought. So I think a lot of people have thought well there really haven’t been a lot of mosquitoes out,” said Prather.

They say it is important to keep your bug spray with you at all times regardless of the weather conditions.

Cass County Vector Control is planning another spray at the beginning of next week.

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