The Department of Health today reported a Yankton County resident died of West Nile virus (WNV) associated causes, the state’s first WNV related death this season. The individual was in the 80 to 89 age group.


To date this season, South Dakota has reported 74 cases of human WNV; 12 percent have had the most serious neruoinvasive disease while 88 percent have had WNV fever. Twenty-five percent of cases have been hospitalized. A There has also been a WNV-positive horse in Butte County.

“This unfortunate death is a reminder for us all that while the Zika virus is grabbing headlines, West Nile is the mosquito-borne virus of concern here in South Dakota,” said Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the department. “We strongly encourage people to protect themselves and their families by using repellent and avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are most active.”

Kightlinger said South Dakotans can reduce their risk with the following precautions:

  • Apply mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) to clothes and exposed skin. Limit exposure by wearing pants and long sleeves in the evening.
  • Limit time outdoors from dusk to midnight when Culex mosquitoes, the primary carrier of WNV in South Dakota, are most active.
  • Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed. Regularly change water in bird baths, outside pet dishes, and drain water from flower pots and garden containers.
  • Support local mosquito control efforts.

These precautions are especially important for people at high risk for WNV – those over 50, pregnant women, transplant patients, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure, and those with a history of alcohol abuse. People with severe or unusual headaches should see their physicians.