Take Action Against West Nile Virus:
Make no mistake! West Nile Virus is a serious disease and should not be taken lightly.
A Bit of History. Though the West Nile Virus (WNV) disease in humans has been known in parts of the world since the 1930's, no human vaccine or medication has yet been developed to prevent or treat it. The U.S. Government and pharmaceutical laboratories have, however, marshaled resources and are currently working to develop an effective vaccine.
The disease made its first appearance in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York and has methodically progressed across the nation to California and first appeared in humans in Idaho in 2004. In 2006 WNV made its most dramatic impact yet on humans in Idaho when confirmed and suspected cases rapidly and dramatically soared to over 1,000 statewide. And, there is reason to believe there were far more cases that went unreported! More than half the suspected and probable Idaho cases were in southwestern Idaho.
Signs You May Be Infected. It can be easy for us to become complacent about WNV because it seems only approximately 1 in 5 people infected, or 20%, actually exhibit any signs or symptoms of the disease. The signs of WNV infection may run the gamut from relatively mild-appearing symptoms to the devastating ravages of neurological disorders and even death.
The less severe form of WNV infection may initially present itself with symptoms similar to the flu: fever, headache, nausea, swollen lymph glands, and vomiting may occur. Unlike the flu, however, a skin rash often appears. We should ask ourselves, “Why do I appear to be coming down with the flu when we are in the soaring temperatures of summer, mosquitoes are out in full force, and I remember being bitten?” Don't procrastinate – see a physician!
Symptoms can range from those above through a range of increasingly severe symptoms. The more severe form of WNV can invade the central nervous system (neuro-invasive WNV) and be marked by a rapid onset of a high fever, moderate to severe head and body aches, sensitivity to light, extreme fatigue, concentration problems, tremors, disorientation, and muscle weakness which, though infrequent, may lead to flaccid muscle paralysis. These symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks or months and may involve prolonged hospitalization before they begin to subside – even then, there may be long-lingering after affects such as continuing fatigue and difficulty in concentrating. Statistically, about 1 case out of 150 of the more severe form of the disease results in death. There were two deaths reported in the Southwest District Health population in 2006 attributed in part to West Nile Virus.
While exceptions have certainly occurred in Idaho and nationally, the more severe form of the disease frequently occurs in patients age 50 and older. Death from WNV disease is often linked to pre-existing debilitating medical conditions in older patients: such as heart disease or respiratory diseases like pneumonia or Chronic Obstructed Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Be cautious. Don't take WNV lightly as there is now a growing body of evidence in the United States to indicate that even “milder” cases can experience prolonged after-affects like fatigue and an inability to concentrate. These conditions can last several months and can lead to signs of depression.
Prevention and Protection. WNV is spread predominately by female culex mosquitoes that lay their eggs in standing, stagnant water such as low lying swamps or sewage/manure settling ponds.
We all must take action to reduce or eliminate mosquito habitat from our property by getting rid of stagnant water sources like bird baths (water should be changed every 3 to 5 days), removing discarded tires and other containers that retain water for long periods of time, and not over watering our lawns; keeping grasses mowed and weeds cut, particularly in shaded areas, is recommended. Let's clear rain gutters and check them periodically for leaves and other debris that could trap water and remain damp for long periods.
Products are available at farm and ranch supply dealers and lawn and garden stores that can be placed in stock tanks, decorative ponds, and other smaller water locations that can not be drained. These products won't harm animals or fish. Always follow product use labels. These actions will also reduce nuisance mosquitoes in addition to the WNV-carrying species.
Remember, when we and our families go out doors, try to avoid the times of day when mosquito activity is highest – early mornings and late evenings. When we do go out, wear light-colored clothing, light weight long sleeved shirts and long pants with socks. Use insect repellant protection containing DEET. Some products use non-DEET ingredients, but DEET is proven to be the most effective mosquito repellant. Smaller doses of DEET-containing repellent are just as effective as larger doses, though larger dose strengths do tend to remain effective a bit longer. Always follow the manufacturer's use and dose recommendations.
Check home window and door screens. Are they in good repair? Because, even though we try to take all necessary precautions on our property, others may not and mosquitoes can travel and drift on light winds up to 15 miles.
If we suspect we may be infected by WNV, see a physician, explain our suspicions, and provide them with as much information as possible concerning our activity that could have exposed us to mosquitoes.
Be informed, be healthy, and take action!
For more information on West Nile Virus click on the links below.
West Nile Virus Web-sites Links:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Idaho Department of Health & Welfare
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