West Nile virus deserves respect

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Remember how we dreaded the spread of West Nile virus to our area?

Health officials warned of dire consequences of contracting the infection, and we watched with alarm as reports spread across the Midwest.

Now, there's a good chance you've contracted the virus, and an 80 percent chance you never even noticed.

Still, symptoms can be serious, it's important to heed the advice of public health officials when West Nile is confirmed in mosquitoes.

That's just what happened recently; two of six tested pools of mosquitoes in Chase County tested positive for West Nile, according to the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department.

Hot, dry conditions have given McCook residents somewhat of a break from mosquitoes this year, but that doesn't mean precautions aren't in order.

Most people, approximately 80 percent or 4 out of 5 who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

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.

A few people, about one in 150 people will develop severe illness. While no one has died of West Nile virus in Nebraska, symptoms can be severe and include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

The virus spreads when mosquitoes get it from infected birds and pass it on to other birds, animals and people, according to Helena Janousek, Health Educator at Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department. "There is no vaccine, but there are simple steps you can take to avoid getting the virus," she said.

It isn't always practical to wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and socks, but that's good protection if you know you're going to be in mosquito territory.

It's also a good idea to apply a mosquito repellant containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. And, avoiding going out at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Around your home or business, eliminate standing water to reduce mosquito breeding sites.

"It is important to take the necessary precautions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes," states Myra Stoney, Director at Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department. "West Nile Virus is not limited to the locations which have positive tested pools of mosquitoes."

More information on West Nile Virus may be found at SWPHD's web site, www.swhealth.ne.gov or at 308-345-4223.

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