Every summer time, we are “bugged” by those pesky critters……flies, gnats, mosquitoes, bees, yellow jackets, wasps – you name it, we have it! At this time, however, the biggest culprits are mosquitoes, those that are carrying a disease called West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus causes an infection that is spread by certain kinds of mosquitoes. They become infected when they bite infected birds. Then, they spread the virus when they bite people or animals, such as horses. This virus cannot spread from animals to people or from person to person through casual contact.
West Nile Virus causes an infection that can lead to inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), the spinal cord (myelitis), or the tissues surrounding it and the spinal cord (meningitis). There is no specific treatment available. Mild infections go away on their own, with the use of mild pain relievers. Persons who are more susceptible to the virus are those over age 50 and those who have cancer, diabetes and kidney disease, or those with underlying health problems, as well as those who have received organ transplants.
Dallas County, Texas’ second most-populated county, authorized aerial spraying of insecticide on Friday for the first time in almost five decades to help fight the mosquito-born illness. Thus far, 12 North Texas residents have died. This year, the Texas Department of State Health Services has tracked 214 cases of the neuro-invasive West Nile, the most serious form of the illness. Because it is just now becoming the peak season for the illness, agency officials fear the state will break the record number for such cases, which was 438, reported in 2003. Texas isn’t the only state reporting this virus, so persons everywhere should take precautions.
People should do everything they can to avoid mosquitoes. Some ways to control them around your home are:
Remove their habitat (where they live and breed. Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys or any other container where they can breed. Also, empty and change water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, and potted plant trays at least once a week to destroy potential mosquito habitats. Keep swimming pool water clean and circulated. Drain or fill temporary pools of water with dirt.
To prevent your exposure to mosquitoes: use EPA-regulated mosquito repellents when necessary and follow directions and precautions closely. Head nets, long sleeves and long pants should be worn if you are going into areas with high mosquito populations. Stay inside during the evening when mosquitoes are active. Be sure your window and door screens are “bug tight.” Replace outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights, which tend to attract fewer bugs than ordinary lights. Remember the yellow lights are not repellents.
There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause high fevers, headaches and disorientation. As stated earlier, however, most go away on their own.
This situation has become more serious because of the warm winter that insects lived through, and the extreme dry conditions that certain areas have experienced.
The best solution is to stay inside, especially at night. For those who must work outdoors, there are many types of mosquito repellents. DEET has been proven to be a most effective repellent for mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, deer flies, stable flies, black flies, gnats and fleas. There is even a type of netting for those who must wear hardhats or ball caps!
ABC News, A.P., CDC, Texas Department of State Health Services