Friday, May 23, 2008

Summertime means West Nile virus prevention

Bzzzz…smack! Get the mosquito repellent! Yes, it's that time of year again, when mosquitoes make their annual pesky comeback.

Unfortunately, mosquito bites are not the only things making a return. Those skeeters may also be bringing West Nile virus along for the ride. The disease most often causes just a mild illness, but can sometimes cause fevers, encephalitis, meningitis or death.

West Nile virus was originally isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937, hence the name. Since that time, the disease has spread. The first U.S. cases were reported in 1999 in New York City. West Nile virus cases have been on the rise in the United States for the past eight years, increasing from an initial 62 cases to more than 3,500 in 2007. Last year, 121 people died from the disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of this week, CDC reports four human cases in 2008-- and summer is officially still a month away.

With global temperatures rising, the disease seems poised to stay, due to longer periods of favorable growth conditions for mosquitoes and the expansion of warmer climate areas. In the United States, the disease has had the greatest impact in Western states in recent years. Just this month, 13 birds were been found with the disease in Orange County, Calif., according to news reports.

The best offense against West Nile virus is a great defense, which means prevention is the best strategy. Health officials recommend using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants or staying inside at dusk and dawn, when skeeters are most active. Keep your doors shut and have good window screens to keep mosquitoes from coming inside. Last but not least, be sure to remove puddles of water from around your home such as water collected in buckets, flower pots and water drains, as they can be breeding sites.

By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the great weather instead of worrying about the annoying, itchy and occasionally severe health effects that can come with mosquito bites.

1 comment:

Kevin F said...

What a great article! I had no idea WNV had such an interesting history. If WNV continues to spread like it is predicted too, I hope that people take the time to prepare for this summers WNV season.