Surge of possible West Nile cases in La Crosse Co.

LA CROSSE, Wis. - It's something La Crosse County hasn't seen in years -- confirmed cases of the West Nile virus.

Now, county officials said not only is there one confirmed case, but there's also another five possible cases they're looking into.

The culprit behind the increase could be a newer kind of mosquito becoming more prominent in our area.

If that's the case, it means almost a completely different approach to preventing the spread of the virus.

"This one looks like it's full of leaves," said Dave Geske, La Crosse County vector control.

Geske said some storm drains may be the ideal breeding ground for the new mosquito breed.

It's one that carries the West Nile virus.

"This storm sewer has potential to hold water for a long period of time, and because of that, it can be a good habitat, a good area for that mosquito to lay its eggs," said Geske.


Geske said out of the four types of mosquitoes that carry the virus, the one that is becoming more common, is the only type to feed on human blood.

It was first found in the La Crosse area in the mid 2000s and Geske said it has been spreading ever since.

"I think there's great potential, unfortunately for this invasive species, the one that has come here to be a problem for us," said Geske. "I sure hope it's not, but I think there's potential for that."

He said it may be responsible for the first confirmed case the county has seen in years, as well as the other five possible cases being investigated.

And The La Crosse County Health Department says more cases are likely coming.

"We're not any different than the rest of the country, and the rest of the county is seeing increasing amounts and we should expect to see so too," said Doug Mormon of the La Crosse County health department.

Even with the increase in possible cases, Mormon said people shouldn't panic. They should just be more aware of their surroundings and contact a doctor if they think they might have the virus.

"People just need to be aware that there are potential problems," said Mormon. "Folks die in car accidents, that doesn't mean we tell people, ‘Don't drive your car.' You should drive your car and be careful while doing it, and it's the same in dealing with nature here."

Geske said more testing and research needs to be done to be sure if storm sewers really are to blame and that could mean big changes ahead for prevention.

"Well, that really means for next year, we have to address this really radically different," said Geske. "We're going to have to look for different habitats for it, and try to control those habitats, and that can be as difficult as really checking and monitoring every storm sewer in the community."

Even though this newer type of mosquito may prefer breeding in storm sewers, it thrives just as much in tires, boats and buckets containing water.

The best advice for the public is to take care of your surroundings and not leave any type of container outside that could hold water for long periods of time.

Symptoms of the virus are very similar to the Flu. They include a high fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and maybe a skin rash among other things.

The last case on record of the West Nile virus in La Crosse County was back in 2006.

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