Like many people who want to exercise outdoors during this time of year, I face a conundrum. The weather forecast calls for temperatures to reach well over the century mark later today. That means if I’m going to do any activity, it needs to be earlier. And since some of that activity includes walking my dog, I have to start even earlier since she can easily get overheated. That puts us out for a walk around dawn. However, starting that early puts us into prime time for mosquitos, which tend to be most active during the early morning hours (as well as at dusk). And during this time of year, that puts me and my fellow early morning exercises at risk for contracting West Nile Virus.
And West Nile is really starting to hit the United States this summer. Just doing a Google search, I found that cases have been reported in major urban areas such as Boston and Baltimore, as well as smaller towns such as Loveland, Colorado and Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It’s particularly bad in Texas. Just in North Texas (which includes Dallas and Fort Worth), West Nile has been linked to 431 human cases and 12 fatalities, according to NBCDFW.com. In fact, ABC World News is reporting that Dallas County is conducting aerial spraying, the first time in nearly 50 years when such sprays were approved. Residents in the spray zone were being asked to remain indoors or to travel with their car windows closed when spraying is taking place.
So what is West Nile Virus? Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the United States have gotten sick with this virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this disease is believed to start in the summer and continue into the fall and most often is spread when an infected mosquito bites you. However, scientists have found rare cases in which the virus is spread through transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and in-vitro transmittal. The CDC noted that West Nile Virus is not spread through casual contact, such as touching or kissing.
Most people who are infected with West Nile will not show any symptoms. However, if you are going to develop symptoms, they will emerge between 3 and 14 days after being bitten. People most at risk include people who are 50 and older as well as people who are outside.
If symptoms do emerge, they can vary in range. For instance, 20 percent of people who are infected will have mild symptoms, which could include fever, nausea, vomiting, head ache, body aches, swollen lymph glands and a rash on the chest, stomach and back. The CDC notes that people with a mild case will improve on their own and do not require medical attention. The CDC also encourages pregnant women and nursing mothers to consult their physicians if they develop symptoms.
However, approximately one in 150 people who are infected with West Nile will have a more serious reaction. Symptoms in this category include high fever, numbness, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, muscle weakness, stupor, vision loss, paralysis and coma. If these types of symptoms emerge, seek medical attention as soon as possible since severe cases of West Nile Virus often require hospitalization.
So how can you avoid contracting this disease? The CDC recommends that if you’re going to be outside, wear long sleeves and long pants and use insect repellant containing DEET or Picaridin, which are conventional repellants or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, PMD or IR3535, which are biopesticide repellants. Also, empty standing water such as flower pots, buckets and barrels that are outside and that are breeding sites for mosquitos. Be sure to change the water in bird baths weekly and keep children’s wading pools empty when not in use.
Take a little precaution and you should be able to avoid this virus this summer. And just keep telling yourself that cooler weather – and no mosquitoes – will come soon enough!
Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Centers for Disease Control. (N.D.). West Nile Virus: What you need to know.
Published On: August 13, 2012