The milder than usual winter this year–which didn’t kill off the mosquito population from the previous year–has increased West Nile Virus to epidemic proportions in states like Texas, while other states are starting to see new documented cases.
West Nile Virus (WNV) is caused by mosquitoes, who bite infected birds and then bite and transmit the disease to humans.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus
Many people may get WVN and not have any symptoms because the body fights the virus on its own. However, for some people the virus may lead to West Nile Fever with “flu-like” symptoms lasting anywhere from a few days to several weeks:
- Body aches
- Skin rash (on the trunk of the body)
- Swollen lymph glands
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can progress to serious illnesses for around one person in every 150 people. These illnesses include West Nile encephalitis or meningitis, or West Nile poliomyelitis. Symptoms for these serious cases can include:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Stupor (lowered consciousness)
- Muscle weakness
Protecting Yourself Against Mosquitoes
1. Get rid of standing water.
Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water and only need about one cup to breed in, so be sure to empty all the standing water around your house in toys, bird baths, trash lids and other items.
2. Use insect repellent.
When outside, it is important to use insect repellent. Although it won’t kill the mosquitoes, it will deter them from biting you.
3. Avoid peak hours.
Early morning and early evening are peak hours for mosquitoes, so wear appropriate clothing–like long sleeves and long pants–or avoid being outdoors during those hours.
4. Don’t touch birds.
If you see an injured or dead bird, don’t touch them. Report dead birds to your local health department to help them monitor the virus.
This post is informational only. If you suspect you have West Nile Virus, contact your health care professional.
Image: Sweet Crisis