On Wednesday, Sept. 5, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the United States is in the midst of one of the worst outbreaks of West Nile virus, and it is yet to subside. West Nile virus is a potentially serious viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes. Experts believe West Nile virus is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness.
In the last two weeks, there have been almost 2,000 cases involving people, including 87 deaths.
The following information is provided by the CDC to help keep you safe and healthy.
Preventing West Nile Virus
• The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites.
• When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. 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.
What Are the Symptoms of West Nile Virus?
• Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
• Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
• No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms at all.
How Does West Nile Virus Spread?
• Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread West Nile virus to humans and other animals when they bite.
• Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, West Nile virus also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
• Not through touching. West Nile virus is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
If you find a dead bird: Don't handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body. They may tell you to dispose of the bird after they log your report.