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First Person Diagnosed with West Nile Virus in Vilas County


Vilas County Public Health Department along with state health officials are advising residents to continue to protect themselves against mosquito bites as they announce this year’s first confirmed case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a Vilas County resident.

The chances of a person contracting WNV are very low and most people infected with the West Nile virus will not have any symptoms. Those who do become ill may have a:

  • Fever,
  • Headache, and
  • Rash that lasts a few days.

Symptoms may begin between three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, WNV can cause severe disease with symptoms such as:

  • Muscle weakness,
  • Stiff neck,
  • Disorientation,
  • Tremors,
  • Convulsions,
  • Paralysis and
  • Coma.

Older adults and people with weakened immune systems have a higher chance of severe disease from the virus.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus other than to treat symptoms. If you think you have West Nile virus infection, contact your healthcare provider. WNV is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not spread person to person.

Few mosquitoes actually carry the virus.  However, follow the tips below to lower the chance of getting West Nile virus and to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellant to exposed skin and clothing since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Properly get rid of items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

For more information on West Nile virus, visit

It's Flu Season!

Flu season is upon us! Healthcare providers throughout the State have already seen people ill from the seasonal flu.  Vilas County Public Health Department will be offering seasonal flu shots beginning in October.  The cost of the flu shot is $25.00 and can be paid with cash or checks.  We also bill Medicare Part B, Medicaid and some Medicare replacements.

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

Flu clinics will be held on the following dates, times and locations: 

Oct. 3 - Tuesday:

  • Presque Isle Community Center, 9 - 10:00 a.m.
  • Winchester Town Hall, 11 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • Mantitowish Waters Community Center, 2 - 3:00 p.m.

Oct. 5 - Thursday:

  • St. Germain Community Center, 9 - 10:30 a.m.
  • Boulder Junction Community Center, 1 - 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 10 - Tuesday:

  • Land O' Lakes Fire Barn, 11 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Oct. 12 - Thursday:

  • Arbor Vitae Community Center, 9 - 10:00 a.m.
  • Lac du Flambeau Town Hall, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 13 - Friday:

  • Conover Community Center, 2 - 3:00 p.m.

Oct. 23 - Monday:

  • Phelps - Northern Exposure Restaurant, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 - Wednesday:

  • Sayner - Shepherd of the Lakes, 9 - 10:00 a.m.
  • Kalmar Senior Center, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 31 - Tuesday:

  • Eagle River - Public Health Department (Courthouse Building - New Addition, 1st Floor), 1 - 4:00 p.m.

Any clinic cancellations will be announced on the radio. 

The following steps can also be taken to stay healthy this flu season:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners can also help.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F or 37.8°C) or signs of a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
  • Follow public health advice in regards to school closures, avoid crowds and other social distancing measures.

Please feel free to contact the Vilas County Public Health Department at 715-479-3656 with any questions regarding the flu shot clinics. We also have pneumonia shots available for individuals 65 years of age and older. There are some restrictions.  Please call us for more information.


Survivors of Suicide Support Group Meets in Rhinelander

Has someone you love taken their own life?  Are you troubled with questions like, “why?”, “what brought this on?”, “why my family?”.  Do you find yourself with no one to talk to about your frustrations and confusion regarding the suicide of your loved one?  Then you are a Survivor of Suicide (SOS) and have a safe place to go to discuss your issues.

The SOS support group was started in July of 2005.  The group is facilitated by Sue Mackowski, a Certified Bereavement Specialist and Consultant.  The group originated as a result of the co-founder’s need for support after the death of her son.  Tina Werres, a Rhinelander native, lost her son Paul to suicide in 2001.  In the months following his death, she struggled with the loss and understood the need for people suffering from the unique backlash of suicide to have a gathering place to meet their needs.  Those needs planted the seeds for the formation of the Survivors of Suicide support group.

The Rhinelander based Survivors of Suicide support group meets once a month, the third Saturday at the Curran Building, 315 S. Oneida Avenue, Rhinelander.  The meetings are from 10am-12 noon.  The SOS support group offers a safe and confidential environment to discuss the unique grieving process experienced by those whose lives have been touched by suicide.  It is a place where survivors tell their stories, share their experiences, and help each other move forward in their grief journey.  The meetings are informal and confidentiality is the primary guideline.  The SOS support group is free and open to the public.

Since its inception, our group has served families and individuals from the Northwood’s area.  Our goal is to provide a “safe haven” for those dealing with the death of a loved one due to suicide.  In addition to group discussions, we have a small library of books, pamphlets, and other literature dealing with grief and loss, specifically loss due to suicide that is available to attendees.

We invite all of you who are struggling with the death of a loved one who has taken their life to join us.  Here is a schedule of 2017 meetings: 

  • 10/21/17
  • 11/18/17
  • 12/16/17

If you have any questions regarding the meeting schedule or content, please call Sue Mackowski, 715-275-5399 or Tina Werres, 716-499-3002.  Remember, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”. 

Crow Tests Positive for West Nile Virus in Vilas County

Vilas County Public Health Department reports a dead crow found in Vilas County on June 29, has tested positive for West Nile virus.  This is the first bird that tested positive for West Nile virus in Vilas County this year.

West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds. 

Take some simple steps to protect yourself against mosquito bites and limit exposure from mosquitoes.  Also, get rid of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  The Health Department recommends the following steps:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use insect repellant on clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Properly throw away items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The majority of people (80%) who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as:

  • fever,
  • headache and muscle aches,
  • rash, and
  • fatigue (being tired).

Less than 1% of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include:

  • high fever,
  • muscle weakness,
  • stiff neck,
  • disorientation,
  • mental confusion,
  • tremors,
  • confusion,
  • paralysis, and
  • coma.

Older adults and those with weak immune systems have a greater chance to develop a central nervous system illness that can lead to death.

The Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people.  During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year. During 2015, 9 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.West Nile virus infections in people have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. 

For more information on West Nile virus:

Tips for Food Safety in a Power Outage:


 It's Tick Season!

The weather is becoming warmer and the deer ticks are beginning to become more active. Ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for small animals and deer. Ticks are unable to jump or fly and usually attach to a host at ground level.

Common Tick Diseases

Some people can develop two or more of these diseases at the same time.

Lyme Disease

Symptoms include a bulls-eye rash, fever, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. The bulls-eye rash, one of the earliest symptoms, typically appears between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash.

Human Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

Symptoms include a sudden onset of a high fever (102 degrees or more), chills, severe headache and muscle aches. These symptoms appear between 1 and 3 weeks after an infectious tick bite. However, not all people have symptoms.

Although people of all ages can get anaplasmosis, it is most severe in the elderly.  If left untreated, it can result in organ failure and death.


Symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, beign tired, headache and loss of appetite. Symptoms usually appear between 1 and 6 weeks after a deer tick bite, but may take longer in some individuals. Most people infected with the babesiosis parasite will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People who are immune compromised may develop severe illness. Babesiosis can be fatal.

Powassan (POWV) Virus

Steps to Protect Yourself from Tick Diseases

  1. Know when you’re in tick habitat—brushy, wooded areas—where you will need to take precautions.
  2. Use a good tick repellent, such as a product containing permethrin or DEET, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Wear clothes that will help to shield you from ticks. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots to create a “tick barrier.”
  4. Check frequently for ticks and remove them promptly.  This is an important step in preventing disease.
  5. Remove the tick slowly and gently using a pair of tweezers. Folk remedies like Vaseline, nail polish remover, or matches are not safe or effective methods of tick removal.

If you develop signs or symptoms of a tick-related illness after spending time in areas where deer ticks are found, you should seek medical attention right away.

Not all deer ticks carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, or babesiosis. If an infected deer tick bites you, it needs to be attached at least 12-24 hours to transmit the human anaplasmosis bacteria and 24-48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. Not every person who is infected with these organisms will develop symptoms.

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Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus that may cause disease in people and animals, particularly dogs.  The fungus grows in nature and is typically found in:

  • Acidic, sandy soils;
  • Decaying wood and other vegetation; and
  • By waterways with changing water levels. 

It produces microscopic spores under certain conditions of temperature and humidity, typically in the spring and fall of the year.  These spores become airborne when the soil or debris becomes disturbed.  Blastomycosis develops when you breathe in the disturbed spores.  Symptoms, however, do not typiclaly occur until 1 - 3 months later.  Blastomycosis is not known to spread from person to person.

Although anyone can be infected with Blastomycosis, the risk of getting this infection is low.  Your chance of getting Blastomycosis may be higher if you are in construction, farm, log, hunt, or camp in areas with moist soils containing rotting leaves and wood.

As there are currently no effective ways to prevent Blastomycosis, it is important to know the symptoms of the disease:

  • Fever and dry cough which may progress to weight loss, chest pain and a persistent cough with thick sputum. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches,
  • Night sweats,
  • Coughing up blood,
  • Shortness of breath and
  • Chest tightness.

Blastomycosis symptoms look like pneumonia and other lung conditions, but it can affect other parts of the body, including skin and bone.  People with health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, asthma or other chronic lung conditions, smoking or diabetes, and the elderly may have severe illnesses. And some people may not have any symptoms. 

Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.