Stearns County in central Minnesota tops the state with three confirmed cases of West Nile virus, the potentially deadly disease that mosquitoes spread.

One person has died this year from the disease in western Minnesota farm country, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, which has confirmed 21 cases in 16 counties.

Health Department epidemiologist David Neitzel said the exposure season runs through mid-September, so it's too early to know for sure if the late spring and cool periods this summer slowed the virus' spread.

The 116 confirmed cases in 2007 are the most since the virus first arrived in Minnesota in 1999. That number was nearly eclipsed last summer when 103 cases were confirmed.

Four of this summer's cases were detected in blood donors in Wright, Itasca, Hennepin and Anoka counties. Health officials urge people to use mosquito repellent.

The virus is most common in open agriculture areas in western and central Minnesota.