August 21, 2013

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Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus: How to Keep Your Family Safe

Summer 2013 may be coming to an end, but the mosquitoes that have been thriving during the hot and unusually rainy season may be sticking around a bit longer. In fact, recent reports show that this summer is gearing up to be one of the buggiest on record.

While mosquitoes are mostly a nuisance, they can lead to one very serious health concern: West Nile virus.

In an effort to keep you and your family safe this mosquito season, we’ve gathered some information on West Nile from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help you understand the virus a bit better.

What is West Nile virus? It is a virus that is usually spread by infected mosquitoes. The virus can cause fever, inflammation of the brain, or inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, often referred to as meningitis.

How is West Nile virus spread? Most commonly, the virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes pick up the virus by feeding on infected birds and then spread it to humans and other animals.

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus? The majority of people (70 – 80 percent) do not experience any symptoms at all. About 20 percent of the people infected with West Nile virus will experience symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or skin rash. Less than one percent of those infected will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Symptoms of the virus will usually appear within three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Prompt medical attention is needed if severe symptoms are present.

How can you prevent being infected with West Nile virus? Since the majority of West Nile cases result from an infected mosquito bite, the best way to prevent contracting the virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Use insect repellents when going outdoors that contain an EPA-registered active ingredient.
  • Cover bare skin with long sleeves and pants if you are outside during hours between dusk and dawn.
  • Make sure your windows and doors have screens in good condition.
  • Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes and birdbaths.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is certainly true with West Nile virus.