Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beware of the West Nile virus

West Nile VirusImage by MacExposure via Flickr
Americans are taking a sigh of relief as one of the worst winters on record seems to be finally behind us.  Spring is here.  Most families are starting to plan for vacations, barbeques and other summer fare.  But as warmer days approach, so do the season's woes with mosquito bites and West Nile Virus.
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What can you do to protect yourself  from the troublesome bites and the more serious against illnesses?  Let's take a look at some important information.

When does transmission occur?

According to Dr. Lyle Petersen, quoted in  "Ebony"' magazine's article, "Beware the Mosquito avoid the West Nile virus by not getting bitten."  Dusk and dawn are the times when mosquitos that spread the disease are likely to bite.  Dr. Petersen knows from firsthand experience as he was bitten during a brief walk to his mailbox in 2003.  He further advised to wear mosquito repellent around those times.

How is the disease spread?

Birds are this virus' primary hosts.  Mosquitos bite the infected birds and spread the disease to humans.  About 60 to 70 percent of the people bitten will develop West Nile fever.  The illness is characterized by severe headaches, fatigues, muscle pains, skin rashes,  nausea or vomiting.

Contrary to popoular belief, mosquitos that carry this illness don't fly in from faraway places.  They can breed around your home in places that collect water such as a birdbath or inside a used tire in the backyard. That's why it's particularly important to protect the little ones.

How serious is the problem?

A few people (less than one percent) will develop severe neurological disease.  One of  such illnesses is encephalitis. This disease  is potentially fatal with serious neuro deficits - such as memory loss -  in those who do survive.

In 2009, more than 300 cases of severe disease were reported.  Fortunately though the numbers are decreasing due to cooler summers and less rain.

In summary

Stay alert and be vigilant - particularly around dawn and dusk.  Stock up on mosquito repellent for protection for yourself and family.

Sources:

"Beware the Mosquito avoid the West Nile virus by not getting bitten" Health and Fitness, Ebony Magazine
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