With summer steadily approaching, so are the swarms of mosquitoes. The West Nile Virus has returned for the summer. Several states have already had mosquito samples testing positive for the West Nile Virus. California, Arizona, and Wisconsin are among those so far. The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito to both humans and other animals. Residents in those areas are warned to take precautions and help prevent mosquito bites. It is encouraged to avoid mosquito infested areas to help lower the risk of infection.
Typically, the West Nile Virus is transmitted to mosquitos after feeding off of a bird infected with the disease. While most humans will not show any signs, preventative measures are a must. The elderly population is at greater risk of developing more severe symptoms of the disease. There have been a limited number of cases where the disease has been transmitted through blood and organ transplants, breastfeeding, and during pregnancy where it was passed from mother to child. There has not been any evidence of direct transmission from an infected bird to any human.
Symptoms of West Nile may present themselves as fever, headaches, rash, fatigue, and joint pain. Other more severe symptoms that may present themselves are disorientations, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, coma, paralysis, and death. Only about 20 percent of people bitten by infected mosquitos will present any symptoms. About 1 percent will develop neurological illness, and around 10 percent of cases of West Nile Virus are fatal. It can take anywhere between five and 15 days for any symptoms of the virus to appear.
There are several precautions people can take to limit transmission of the West Nile Virus by mosquitos. When outdoors, use an EPA registered insect repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin. Both can be used on children as young as three month of age. Other repellents approved and recommended by the CDC are available. It is also safe for adults and children over the age of three to use some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-methanediol products, which are approved by the CDC. Eliminate sources of standing water. Flower pots, buckets, tire swings, wading pools, wheel barrows, and watering cans are very attractive breeding grounds. Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts if you must be outside at dusk or dawn. These precautions will lessen the chances of getting bitten as those are the times mosquitos tend to be most active. To help protect infants, it is recommended to keep mosquito netting over car seats and strollers.
Keep in mind as the summer fun returns, so have the mosquitos and the West Nile Virus. Be sure to use that repellent before you take a hike through the woods or go on that weekend camping trip. Be sure to also report any dead birds in the area to the local Health Department. Never handle a dead bird without gloves or a clean plastic bag. Basic preventative measures exist to help ensure that an epidemic does not ensue. Currently, there is no known cure or specific treatment for the West Nile Virus.
By Melissa Monk