Mosquitoes! I have always considered mosquitoes just another element of the great outdoors – albeit, a pesky element that demanded a good degree of tolerance – but, with this year’s West Nile Virus epidemic set to be one of the worst in U.S. history, it may be time to elevate our tolerance to vigilance!
West Nile Virus (WNV) is primarily spread by mosquitoes (in a small number of cases, it is also spread through blood transfusions, organ donations, and breast feeding).The virus often causes severe and, occasionally, fatal illness. According to the CDC, as of September 5, 2012, 2,118 people have become ill with the virus and 92 have died in the United States so far this year. Since late summer and early autumn seem to be when mosquitoes carry the greatest amounts of the virus, this is an important time to: 1) remember the precautionary measures we can take to fend off those mosquitoes before they bite, and 2) learn the warning signs of WNV should we get bitten.
So, how can you protect yourself from mosquito bites?
- Use an insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm).
- Avoid being outdoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long sleeves and pants.
- Repair or replace screen doors and windows with holes.
- Empty or drain any standing water around your home to avoid giving mosquitoes a place to breed.
If you do get a mosquito bite, be vigilant for the warning signs of the virus. Symptoms of WNV can range from none (4 out of 5 people infected with the virus show no signs of illness at all) to very serious. Fortunately, only 1 out of 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop serious symptoms.
Mild symptoms include:
- body aches
- swollen lymph glands
- skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back
More serious symptoms include:
- high fever
- neck stiffness
- muscle weakness
- vision loss
Mosquitoes! Not only are they a pesky element of the great outdoors, but this year they pose a great danger!