There are two illnesses that are affecting many parts of the U.S. right now, and we want to address both of them, in hopes that everyone will be more aware of them and what to do.  As of September 4, 2012, 48 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 1,993 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 87 deaths, have been reported to CDC. Of these, 1,069 (54%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 924 (46%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

The 1,993 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the first week in September since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Over 70 percent of the cases have been reported from six states (Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan) and almost 45 percent of all cases have been reported from Texas.  As of September 12, Dallas County Health officials say more than one-half of trapped mosquitoes are infected with West Nile Virus.  There have been six deaths in Tarrant County, fifteen in Dallas County, included in the 824 cases known in four counties in North Texas.

West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. This important information from the Centers for Disease Control can help you recognize and prevent West Nile virus.

Prevention measures consist of community-based mosquito control programs that are able to reduce vector populations, personal protection measures to reduce the likelihood of being bitten by infected mosquitoes, and the underlying surveillance programs that characterize spatial/temporal patterns in risk that allow health and vector control agencies to target their interventions and resources.

The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing Deet.  Follow the directions on the package.
  • Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
  • Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

Being outside means you’re at risk. The more time you’re outdoors, the more time you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.

People over 50 at higher risk to get severe illness. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.

Because warm weather continues, be watchful of mosquitoes, and use spray repellent on yourself, your children and everyone’s clothes.  This is a very serious illness that affects persons in different ways.  

Source: CDC, WFAA News

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