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St. Louis County Man Has West Nile Virus

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Health officials are confirming a northern Minnesota man has been infected with the West Nile Virus. He's the first confirmed case of 2012.

"The case occurred in St. Louis County resident," said Dave Neitzel, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health. "However, that person traveled to south central Minnesota and was likely exposed to mosquitoes in south central Minnesota."

Neitzel said western and central Minnesota is where they typically see West Nile problems occur each year.

"Since the virus was first found here in 2002 the cases have been reported in farm country," said Neitzel.

The man became ill with West Nile encephalitis and meningitis in late May. He was hospitalized and is recovering.

The health department is now telling people to protect themselves from this potentially life-threatening disease by routinely using mosquito repellent.

Neitzel said the disease carried by mosquitoes is at the highest risk for exposure from mid-summer through early autumn.

"It's an early start to the season but everything has started early this season. Our ticks were out earlier," said Neitzel.

Since 2002, Minnesota has reported 465 cases of West Nile, and 15 were fatal.

"About 80 percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes are able to fight off the virus without any symptoms and were fine," said Neitzel. "Almost everybody else gets what we call 'West Nile Fever.' A bad headache, fever, maybe a viral rash."

The health department says one out 150 will result in more severe illness, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis.

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