The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that one person has died of complications of the West Nile Virus, marking the first fatality attributed to the mosquito-borne illness so far this year.
Officials declined to say exactly where the infection was contracted, saying only that an elderly Stevens County resident became ill and died earlier this month.
Health officials warn that Minnesota is still in the midst of the West Nile Virus season, and residents are urged to protect themselves with insect repellant when outdoors, particularly during the dawn and dusk.
Officials also released a map showing where the virus has been found in the state so far this year. In all, there have been 20 confirmed human cases in 14 counties. Those counties and the number of cases reported there can be found below:
This is the highest number of confirmed cases of West Nile Virus the state has seen in five years, and the early warm weather is the likely culprit.
Across the country, more than two dozen people have died from complications of West Nile Virus.
"This is a virus that, in its most severe form, attacks the central nervous system, attacks the brain," explained Dave Neitzel, state epidemiologist.
Erik Condon, of Annandale, was stricken with the mosquito-borne illness a few years ago after he was bitten while on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts. Though he was fine in the long run, the symptoms of fatigue and headaches lingered for some time.
Condon's mother told FOX 9 News by phone that it took her son two to three months before his energy levels returned to normal, and he lost strength during the bout with the virus.
The elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are the most susceptible to the virus; however, about 80 percent of people who contract West Nile Virus never show any symptoms. Those who do get sick often come down with sustained headaches, fever, fatigue and a rash.
Of the roughly 50 species of mosquitos in Minnesota, only one or two actually transmit the virus to humans and they tend to be found in the open, agricultural areas of the state.