Health department identifies West Nile prevention hints

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The summer weather is welcome and area activities are bringing more and more people out of doors as temperatures continue to climb.

But it's not only the heat that is increasing as the first day of summer draws near. That annoying whine you hear as a mosquito zeroes in serves as a reminder that the pest may be bringing more than an irritating itch. Our neighbors to the north are finding the whine deafening as they deal with a bumper crop of mosquitos, thanks to rising river waters. Here in McCook, city employees monitor the mosquito population, test standing water for larvae and respond to citizen complaints. Periodic spraying helps keep the pests under control.

Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department reminds us that there are ways to protect ourselves against West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito that has contracted the virus from an infected bird.

"One of your best defenses is to apply mosquito repellant," states Helena Janousek, Health Educator at Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department. "Mosquito repellant helps reduce your exposure to mosquitoes that may carry West Nile virus."

By using repellent, it allows you to continue to play, work, and enjoy the outdoors with a lower risk of getting bit. Apply repellent when you go outdoors, even if it's only for a few minutes. Avoid outdoor activity around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active. The most effective repellents contain DEET. DEET is used directly on your skin or on your clothing. Follow the directions on the product you're using.

Other precautions include, wearing shoes and socks, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Make sure all windows and doors in your home have screens in good repair to keep mosquitoes out.

Eliminating the potential for breeding grounds around your home and spraying insecticide where adult mosquitoes hide, will certainly help reduce the mosquito menace around your property.

For example:

drain children's wading pools when not in use

replace water in bird baths every 3 to 4 days

drill a hole in tire swings so water can drain out

check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out

remove discarded tires, and other items that could collect water

vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds

dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers

Most people who are infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms or experience mild illness such as a fever, headache and body aches before fully recovering. Severe cases may cause Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) resulting in permanent neurological damage and can be fatal. Symptoms include the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, loss of consciousness (coma), and muscle weakness.

SWNPHD will collect dead birds for state testing through October. This will help public health officials monitor the human health risk for West Nile virus. If you find a dead bird that died of an unknown reason and in good condition, please report it to SWNPHD. Red Willow County residents should call Red Willow County Health Department.

More information on West Nile Virus may be found at our web site or call the McCook office at 308-345-4223. SWNPHD is also on Facebook.

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