When Mike Fey was bitten by a mosquito between his thumb and index finger; he laughed at the time because it was the only mosquito he'd seen all summer.
That was until he ended up in the emergency room with West Nile virus.
Fey, 42, works as a welder south of Groton. He never thought the West Nile virus could affect him because he'd always been in excellent health before he was bitten.
But he is one of 21 cases in people ages 40-49 to be diagnosed with the virus in South Dakota. It's the biggest age bracket of the 98 reported cases in South Dakota.
"If I can get it, anybody could get it," he said.
Even though the drought has reduced the overall mosquito numbers, there's a higher concentration of culex tarsalis mosquitoes, which carry the virus, said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist. "If anything, it makes people more susceptible," he said.
"People see fewer mosquitoes, and that makes them complacent. They let their guard down," Kightlinger said.
The aedes vexans mosquito, commonly called floodwater mosquitos, is the type of mosquito common to South Dakota, but they do not carry the West Nile virus, Kightlinger said.
Their population is way down because they require a lot of water and moisture to breed, which they haven't had during this drought, he said. smaller, and have much less restrictive breeding conditions, Kightlinger said. So although the overall number of mosquitos in South Dakota and Brown County is down, the percentage of mosquitos that can carry the West Nile Virus is relatively higher, he said.
The mosquitoes that do carry the virus, the Culex Tarsalis mosquito, do not breed as often, are much smaller, and have much less restrictive breeding conditions, Kightlinger said. So although the overall number of mosquitos in South Dakota and Brown County is down, the percentage of mosquitoes that can carry the West Nile virus is relatively higher, he said.
Nancy Jark, 44, of Warner was watching her son play baseball in the State B Teener baseball tournament in Platte on Aug. 11, and felt fine. Jark said her family returned home and she started to experience painful headaches accompanied by a stiff neck, shoulders and back. The next day she went with her family to help her daughter move into her dorm at Dakota Wesleyan University, Jark said. She visited a chiropractor, who advised her to go the hospital, after she described her symptoms.
Jark spent three days in the Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell and another three days at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.
Blood tests and a spinal tap revealed that she had West Nile Virus, Jark said. She spent six days in hospitals before doctors allowed her to go home, she said.
Jark is still trying to regain her strength, but her recovery has been rocky.
"I have good days and not-so-good days," she said.
Jark does not know when the mosquito bit her because she doesn't remember being bitten in the first place.
"I don't remember getting bit at all," she said.
"Anybody that's bitten by a mosquito could get it," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist.
The city of Aberdeen uses aerial spraying when the city feels the need to reduce the number of mosquitoes or when there’s a threat of West Nile virus. The latter is the case this summer. Mosquito spraying happens about once a month during the summer.
In most cases, symptoms of the West Nile virus are similar to the flu, which is what Fey thought he initially had until he was officially diagnosed with West Nile Tuesday. It's been weeks since the initial symptoms, but he's still about 65 percent healthy, he said.