First human case of West Nile Virus reported in Shelby County, officials say

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department has reported the first human case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Shelby County in 2019.

It is also the first human case of the virus in the state of Tennessee, the health department says.

In July, FOX13 reported that the virus was found in mosquitoes but, this is the first human case.

RELATED: Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus across multiple zip codes in Shelby County

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According to a news release, West Nile Virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.  The disease is, typically, spread to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito. Once infected, persons with West Nile Virus can experience signs and symptoms that range from a mild flu-like illness to severe illness resulting from inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, which can be fatal. Amongst four human cases of WNV reported in Shelby County during 2018, there were three fatalities. 

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter urges everyone who lives and works in Shelby County to protect themselves against mosquito bites and to take measures to reduce the number of mosquitos in Shelby County.

"Persons over age 50 and those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of developing severe illness if infected with WNV. 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 repellants containing DEET, according to label directions.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors.