South Dakota's first death from West Nile Virus in 2021 has been reported.

According to the State Dakota Department of Health, the patient was a 42-year-old Union County woman.

The death is the 47th in South Dakota since the first West Nile Virus cases in the state were reported in 2001. In the past 20 years, South Dakota has reported 2,624 cases of the virus, which is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

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Those most at risk from West Nile are those over the age of 50, pregnant women, organ transplant patients, individuals with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, and those with a history of alcohol abuse.

The symptoms usually begin with severe or unusual headaches.

State health authorities advise the following precautions to avoid contracting the virus:

  • Apply mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanone or IR3535) to clothes and exposed skin
  • Reduce mosquito exposure by wearing pants and long sleeves when outdoors
  • Limit time outdoors from dusk to dawn when Culex mosquitoes, the primary carrier of the virus in South Dakota, are most active
  • Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed
  • Regularly change the water in birdbaths, ornamental fountains, and pet dishes
  • Drain water from flower pots and garden containers
  • Discard old tires, buckets, cans, or other containers that can hold water
  • Clean rain gutters to allow water to flow freely
  • Support local mosquito control efforts

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