The West Nile virus is now affecting five counties in California, including San Joaquin, Yuba, Tolate, Los Angeles, and Fresno, which seemed to be the first cases reported this year. The state department announced that birds and mosquitoes in San Joaquin and Bellevue areas indicated virus infection. In 2002, the cases nearly tripled where 42 California counties were affected. Commenting on this year’s outbreak, San Joaquin County Mosquito Control Aaron Devencenzi said this is the earliest time West Nile virus has been found in almost 10 years.
Texas reported the first human case of West Nile Virus this year. The Department of State Health Services in Texas announced that a male patient from Anderson County is recovering from a serious form of neurotropic viral infection. In 2012, there were 89 deaths out of 1800 human cases of the reported virus infection. A case was reported West Michigan where Michelle Dann of Grand Rapids was hospitalized for five weeks and had to miss work for nearly three months. She was sent home twice when doctors told her she was having a flu, until lumbar puncture procedure indicated otherwise. The fluid from her spinal cord was sent to CDC and after a week, she was diagnosed with inflammation of spinal cord and brain.
After being hospitalized for three weeks, Michelle Dann is now helping health officials in her own way in spreading the word to avoid mosquito bites.
What is West Nile Virus?
WNV is a potentially serious illness, according to CDC. It is a seasonal epidemic in North America usually prevalent in the summers and fall. The severe symptoms include headache, stiff neck, tremors, coma, convulsions, and loss of vision, paralysis, disorientation, and high fever. The symptoms may last for weeks, and the neurological effects can be permanent.
Milder symptoms include nausea, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, skin rashes, stomach, head, and back pain. Healthy people can be affected by WNV too. About 80 percent of people affected by the virus show no symptoms but may develop 3 to 15 weeks after being bitten with an infected carrier.
When mosquitoes feed on the birds infected with the virus, they can get infected and pass on to people. The mosquitoes can also infect animals. In rare cases, the WNV can infect through transfusions, transplants, and mother to a child. You cannot get infected by touching and kissing or touching affected persons.
Preventing WNV Spread
Health officials are urging the people to be diligent in clearing away breeding grounds of the mosquito. Flower pots, bird baths, tires, and other places where there is stagnant water. The health officials recommend reducing specific mosquito breeding areas such as aerate ornamental pools. Cutting back overgrown vegetation such as grass and stocking the standing water (fish ponds) with Gambusia fish that feeds on the mosquito larvae are beneficial steps to eliminate mosquitoes. Officials also add that helpful information is available at the county mosquito control in your area.
The reason people are not afraid of the virus is the lack of information. The repercussion of mosquito bite infected with WNV is a serious threat to health. Private citizens are urged to help spread the word about the dangers of West Nile Virus.
How to Reduce Exposure to WNV
The CDC recommends using government approved insect repellant such as bug sprays that contain DEET, picaridin, citronella, and oil of eucalyptus. Asians collect and dry leaves on Neem tree and use the smoke as a natural fumigation to homes. Drain empty cans, buckets, and other potential habitats of mosquitoes. Wearing light colored and tight woven long sleeves can help you avoid from being bitten by mosquitoes. Repair windows and install screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your house. Be a part of your community efforts to stave of WMV infection.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas