Health Risk: West Nile Virus 1

Dark green indicates concentrations of reported cases of the West Nile Virus.  Source: U.S. Government, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the last decade more than 30,000 Americans have become ill, and 118 have died as a result of the West Nile Virus.  This problem is growing and spreading, and has now become a serious national health threat.

Infected mosquitoes are spreading this disease which can cause death and serious life-altering effects.  In the United States, two-thirds of the cases have been reported from six states: Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Michigan, and Oklahoma, and 40 percent of all cases have been reported from Texas.  However, even if you live in a State other than these, it is now prudent to take precautions as the disease is quickly spreading.  It is time for everyone to take prevention seriously.

How-To Protect Yourself

To reduce the risk of contracting this West Nile Virus, follow these simple steps:

1. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, as these are the times of day when mosquitoes are most active.

2.  When going outdoors, dress in clothing that is loose fitting and covers as much skin as possible.  Shirts should have long sleeves, and pants should be long enough to cover shoe tops.  Light-color clothing may provide some additional protection.

3.  When going outside, defend yourself against mosquitoes by using an insect repellant that contains a high percentage of DEET (50-99%).  Or, less effective but still helpful, are commercial or home-made repellants which contain picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.  For outdoor living, mosquito traps can help, and some report a reduction in the number of mosquitoes by burning citronella candles.  However, these typically have no favorable effect unless the air is totally calm.

4.  Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood.  Stagnant water is a prime breeding area for mosquitoes.  Swimming pools, rivers and creeks with moving water are usually not a problem.  The problem is stagnant water; water that is not flowing or moving.  Even small areas of stagnant water are a problem, such as:  stagnant ponds, flower pots, water dishes, bird baths, wading pools, and even potholes and tire ruts which have collected water.  These are a problem and should be drained.

Though it can be somewhat effective to add a few drops of oil to the surface of a stagnant pond, sufficient to form a sheen on the surface, this is not good for the environment.  Nor is it good for fish, frogs, birds, and other small creatures which might drink from the pond.  Though the oil may create a somewhat effective barrier against mosquito breeding, it is far better to drain the water rather than try to treat it.

Insect-Repellents, click on the text to the left to download a CDC 2-page PDF document, written by Centers for Disease Control staff, which describes the effectiveness of different insect repellent products for use on skin and clothing.

Insect-Repellents-TopRated, click on the text to the left to download a PDF product review of the most popular grocery-store variety of insect repellents.  This review was conducted by an independent consumer agency.

 

Symptoms of West Nile Virus

Those infected with the West Nile Virus may not experience any symptoms at all, but generally there will be flu-like symptoms plus some of these additional conditions:  High fever, extreme headache, severe neck pain, slurred speech, lack of coordination (dropping things more often than usual, stumbling, balance problems, etc.).  If you are experiencing some of these conditions in addition to flu-like symptoms, visit your doctor or hospital emergency room.

Animal Infections

Animal infections have now been reported in all 50 States, so the spread of this disease to humans in other North America locales is eminent.

Non-human Infections: West Nile Virus infections have been reported to CDC ArboNET from the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Human Infections:  2,963 human West Nile Virus infections have been reported to CDC ArboNET from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Statistics on the West Nile Virus

Source of All Statistics Cited:  U.S. Government, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.CDC.gov.  Unfortunately, we do not have reliable statistics for Mexico, but for information on the spread of this disease in Canada, visit:  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/wnv-vwn/index.html

One comment

  1. Birds carry West Nile virus. It was almost certainly a bird that brought the virus to New York in the summer of 1999, but no one knows for sure exactly how it happened. The bird may have been ill, or it may have been relatively healthy: some birds die from the infection while others are unaffected. In any case the bird was bitten by a mosquito while the virus was circulating in its bloodstream..

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