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West Nile Virus

What do horses, birds, and humans have in common? They can all get West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite. Not every mosquito carries it, but the species that transmits West Nile is most abundant in late summer and early fall.

Jody Green is an entomologist and extension educator at the University of Nebraska. She says you can thank our feathered friends for the disease.

"West Nile Virus is transmitted by an infected by mosquito and the infected mosquito acquires that from feeding on an infected bird. So, it’s actually a bird virus and it can be transferred from bird-to-bird through the mosquito," says Green. "And when it does come to humans from a mosquito, we can’t spread it to each other and we don’t get it from birds directly."

Flooding and stagnant water breeds a lot of mosquitoes, but Green says West Nile is more prevalent during drought. That’s because both mosquitoes and birds are hanging out at the same few water sources.

Eighty-percent of people infected with West Nile will have no symptoms. The other 20% can have mild to severe symptoms. Green was in that 20%.

"I was a blood donor. I had no idea that I had even had it. It was only until 10-days later when I received a letter from the blood donation clinic that I may have had West Nile," she says. "I went through some records, and I did go to the doctor because I had a rash and I had a headache. But, I wasn’t in that clinical phase where she would of got me tested for West Nile virus."

Protect yourself by dumping out standing water, wearing loose clothing, and spraying yourself with repellant.