This mosquito season is proving to be under the relentless strike of the nasty West Nile virus. Several states such as Texas, Illinois, and Oklahoma have already reported a positive testing for the virus on captured mosquitoes earlier this month. Scientists are believing that the weather may be to blame for the increased occurrence of the virus. A study published on PubMed has shown that temperatures that are above average are linked to increased incidences of West Nile Virus, and a correlation was found for areas with more rain.
Being able to measure these factors would help scientists predict the possibilities of incoming outbreaks. So far, a few cases of human contractions of West Nile virus have been reported throughout a few states within the past couple weeks. A man on the outskirts of Houston was reported on Thursday to be the first person in Texas to contract the Virus. 2012 was Texas’s worst year with an astounding 2000 cases and 89 deaths. It is hard to predict what Texans will be encountering in 2015 as mosquito season continues to unravel especially after the huge thunderstorm they experienced throughout Memorial Day weekend. Experts are believing that this year will yield a much larger number of mosquito populations.
West Nile virus occurs via birds when mosquitoes bite infected hosts and then become carriers of it. As mosquitoes continue on with their pesky ways of biting mammals, the virus is then transmitted. Although most of the people who are bit by virus-carrying mosquitoes show no symptoms, it can be extremely troublesome for the unfortunate few who suffer severe complications and death in some cases. West Nile virus can cause dramatic fevers as well as inflammation of the brain. Anyone who begins to feel flu-like symptoms several days after receiving a mosquito bite should hastily seek medical attention. People are being strongly encouraged to take early precautions this mosquito season due to the virus appearing much sooner than normal.
Insect repellant should be at the top of the list for those seeking to avoid mosquito bites. A repellant containing DEET or picaridin will be very effective. Limiting time spent outdoors during dusk or night would be wise since it is those periods where mosquitoes are the most active. If it is absolutely necessary to be outside, then long sleeve garments and pants should be worn. Having any standing water near the household should be dumped or drained because that provides a friendly area for them to grow and reproduce. A special precaution should be taken in assuring that doors and windows are tightly shut along with replacing torn screens to avoid the relentless strike of mosquitoes this season.
To date there are no known vaccines, but scientists over at Oregon Health & Science University are currently putting their recently developed West Nile vaccine to clinical trials. Although 80 percent of people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes are unaware of any complications, it is still considered a big threat for the elderly or those with more compromised immune systems. Mark Slifka, Ph.D., the lead scientist in the development of the West Nile virus vaccine stated, “We believe our vaccine approach will not only be safe and effective for West Nile virus, but it could also provide significant protection against other important human pathogens”. These pathogens are said to include dengue hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, and potentially even Ebola. This appears to be a great leap forward for the world of medicine.
Recently there have been no significant threats announced on the outbreak of the virus, but citizens should still keep aware in practicing preventative measures. Many might see that this mosquito season will be one where the West Nile virus will strike relentlessly.
By Frank Grados
Time – Scientists Find a Way to Predict West Nile Outbreaks
NCBI – Meteorological conditions associated with increased incidence of west nile virus
State of Reform – OHSU West Nile virus vaccine enters clinical trials
KEYE TV- West Nile Virus Is Back In Texas
Photo Courtesy of calafellvalo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License