Mosquito Bites and West Nile Virus

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • It’s summer time! During the next few months you will probably be spending more time outdoors, enjoying the warm weather and sunshine. But we aren’t the only ones – bugs, such as mosquitoes are all around during the warm months. Not only do mosquitoes cause red, itchy marks they can also carry diseases, such as the West Nile virus.

     

    Symptoms of West Nile Virus

     

    Approximately 80 percent of people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying this virus will never have any symptoms and never know they had the virus according to the Centers for Disease Control. But for some, symptoms can be severe and in some cases, cause death. People 50 years old and older are at a higher risk of contracting West Nile virus.

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    Mild symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Body aches
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Rash on chest, stomach and back

    More severe symptoms include the previous symptoms but some people may also experience:

    • Neck stiffness
    • Disorientation
    • Convulsions
    • Muscle weakness
    • Tremors
    • Vision loss
    • Numbness
    • Paralysis
    • Coma

    Symptoms usually last only a few days, however, can last for several weeks. For those with severe symptoms, neurological damage can be permanent.

     

    Prevention of West Nile Virus

     

    Although it may be impossible to never get a mosquito bite, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself and lower your risk of getting bit.

    • Make sure you have screens in your windows and doors and check for and repair and holes in screens
    • Use an insect repellant (containging DEET) when outdoors, especially between dusk and dawn and follow directions on the label paying attention to how long protection will last and how often the repellant should be reapplied. Be careful when applying insect repellant on children, avoid spraying near the mouth or on their fingers (because they often end up in their mouth); instead, spray repellant on your hands and then apply on your child
    • Replace insect repellants at least once every two years
    • Where light colored clothing, such as khaki, earth tones or neutral tones, including long sleeve shirts, pants and socks when outdoors between dusk and dawn or when in areas where mosquitoes are present
    • Avoid wearing sweet smelling perfumes and using scented soaps when you are going to be outdoors
    • Mosquitoes are attracted to body odor and sweat, shower or wash up before going outdoors
    • Empty standing water in your yard: change pet water or bird bath water weekly, empty water from flower pots, buckets, barrels or other containers, drill holes in swings or other containers to drain water, empty wading pools and stand on their side when not in use

    If you find a dead bird, do not touch with your bare hands. Contact your local health department to report the bird and find out if they remove dead birds.

     

    References:

     

    “Avoid Mosquito Bites to Avoid Infection,” Modified 2007, Sept 2, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/prevention_info.htm

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    “West Nile Virus: What You Need to Know,” Updated 2011, April 18, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factsheet.htm

     

Published On: June 07, 2012