Don’t Get Bitten by West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is carried by mosquitoesIn North America the peak mosquito season is drawing to a close but the threat of infection from West Nile virus is larger than ever. West Nile Virus and its pesky host, the common mosquito,  was detected as a problem in 1999 and since this date over 30,000 people in the United States have been been infected with West Nile virus. The fatality rate of being bitten by an infected mosquito has risen from 1% in 1999 to 6%. Not all states are affected.

This map by the Centers of Disease, Control and Infection shows the spread of human disease cases in the US.

Many people who get bitten by an infected mosquito won’t become ill, but those with underlying health conditions and those over 50 are most at risk and should seek to take precautions against being bitten from a mosquito.

In more severe cases “West Nile encephalitis,”  an inflammation of the brain, “West Nile meningitis” an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord or “West Nile meningoencephalitis,” inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it can occur. The Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention reported that since 1999 almost 13,000 people who had contracted West Nile virus have been seriously ill, and more than 1,200 have died.

If you have been bitten by a mosquito and develop flu like symptoms, fever, blotchy skin & headache and a stiff neck see a doctor immediately. More severe symptoms include lack of body control and coma.

Mosquito numbers can be reduced by ground and air insecticide spraying, the cutting down of long grass and regular draining of standing water but what is clear is that West Nile is in the US is well entrenched. The CDC and other health organizations are working hard on a vaccine, but here are some tips just in case:

Avoiding the West Nile Virus

  • You can guard against West Nile Virus by wearing a bug spray. DEET is one of the strongest insect repellents on the market but be careful to adhere to the instructions. Research by the Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, FL discovered that the efficacy and duration of protection vary considerably among products and among mosquito species and are notably affected by ambient temperature, amount of perspiration, exposure to water, abrasive removal, and other factors. In general, higher concentrations of active ingredient provide longer duration of protection, regardless of the active ingredient, although concentrations above ~50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time. Products with <10% active ingredient may offer only limited protection, often from 1-2 hours.
  • Wear long sleeves, long trousers and socks. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with bug repellent will add extra protection.
  • Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so you may wish to limit your outdoors exposure to those times.
  • Eliminate standing water around your property. If you see mosquitoes hovering any standing water avoid walking through the area.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your home or premises by fitting insect screens.

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