West Nile Virus & Mosquito Safety
West Nile infection is caused by a virus that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. West Nile virus has been detected in 48 states, with Hawaii and Alaska as the only exceptions. West Nile virus has been detected in nearly every every corner of Dallas County. The risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities because of greater exposure to mosquitoes.
Staff physician, Ronnie Shalev, MD explains the risk of West Nile, “Most cases of West Nile occur between June and September. Most patients experience symptoms in the first 2 to 6 days after being bitten but it may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear.”
Do I Have West Nile? How Do I Know?
Most people infected with the West Nile virus have no signs or symptoms. About 20% of people develop a mild infection called West Nile fever. Common signs and symptoms of West Nile fever include:
- body aches
- back pain
- a skin rash
- swollen lymph glands
In less than 1 % of infected people, the virus causes a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). Signs and symptoms of these diseases are high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, confusion, muscle tremors, seizures, partial paralysis and coma.
Most people with this West Nile fever recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10% of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
Diagnosis of West Nile Infection is based on a combination of clinical signs and symptoms and specialized laboratory tests of blood or spinal fluid. These tests typically detect antibodies that the immune system makes against the viral infection.
How West Nile is Treated
There is no vaccine or treatment of the West Nile Virus.The most effective way to avoid West Nile virus disease is to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito-breeding sites. The CDC recommends the following tips for reducing your risk of exposure.
Reduce Your Risk of West Nile by Eliminating Mosquito Exposure
- Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most prevalent, such as at dawn, dusk and early evening.
- When outside, cover your infant’s stroller or playpen with mosquito netting.
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
- Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when many mosquitoes are most active. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection.
Control West Nile Outbreaks by Eliminating Mosquito Breeding Grounds
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
- Eliminate standing water in your yard such as flowerpots, buckets, and pet water dishes. Mosquitoes breed in pools of standing water.
- Unclog roof gutters.
- Empty unused swimming pools.
- Change water in birdbaths at least weekly.
- Remove old tires or any unused containers that might hold water and serve as a breeding place for mosquitoes.