Virus prevention tied to bite

| August 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
A scientist examines mosquitoes under a microscope prior to testing them for the presence of West Nile virus. (Photo by Benedict Pagac Jr., U.S. Army Public Health Command)

A scientist examines mosquitoes under a microscope prior to testing them for the presence of West Nile virus. (Photo by Benedict Pagac Jr., U.S. Army Public Health Command)

Capt. Heather Ferguson
U.S. Army Public Health Command

West Nile virus (WNV) is commonly found throughout the United States, as well as in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East.

WNV took a serious health toll nationally last year, causing more than 5,000 illnesses and 243 deaths.

WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can infect people, horses, many species of birds and some animals.

There is no evidence that WNV can be spread from person to person or from animal to person; however, no medications treat or vaccines to prevent infection.

Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to avoid becoming infected with WNV. To reduce exposure to West Nile virus, adhere to the following advice:

•Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the repellents approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

•Regularly drain standing water, including water that collects in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread WNV breed in stagnant water.

•Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

•Use air conditioning or make sure screens are on all doors and windows, to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

Symptoms
Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. Recovery from West Nile fever may include symptoms that may last for several weeks.

Symptoms of the more serious form, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can include those of West Nile fever, plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Up to 80 percent of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms.

Individuals over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they have become infected with the virus. If a person has symptoms and suspects West Nile virus infection, he/she should contact his/her health care provider.

(Editor’s note: Ferguson is an entomologist with USAPHC.)

Online
For more information on preventing West Nile virus, visit
•U.S. Army Public Health Command, http://phc.amedd. army.mil/topics/discond/aid/Pages/ WestNileVirus.aspx.

•U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html.

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