SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota health officials reported the state's first human West Nile Virus case of the season on Friday, July 24.

The person infected is a resident of McCook County, according to the state Department of Health.

“Active transmission of West Nile virus is occurring in South Dakota and people need to protect themselves, especially during evening outdoor activities,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist, in a news release.

Since the first human case of the virus was reported in 2001, the illness has sickened 2,613 South Dakotans and killed 46.

The Upper Midwest saw fewer than usual West Nile Virus cases and fatalities last year, likely due to weather conditions that were hard on the mosquito species that carries the virus, Culex tarsalis. But South Dakota historically has had a disproportionately high number of West Nile Virus cases compared to other states, Clayton said.

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State health officials issued recommendations to help South Dakotans avoid being infected with West Nile Virus, and said such precautions were especially important for those at high risk for the virus: including individuals over 50, pregnant women, organ transplant patients, individuals with cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease and those with a history of alcohol abuse.

People with severe or unusual headaches should see their physicians, according to the Department of Health.

Recommendations to ward off West Nile 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 are most active.
  • Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed.
    • Regularly change water in bird baths, ornamental fountains and pet dishes.
    • Drain water from flowerpots 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.