West Nile Virus
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito transmitted disease that can infect humans, birds, horses and other mammals. In humans WNV can cause a mild flu-like illness, or may cause no symptoms at all. In some cases, especially among the elderly, WNV can cause serious neurological diseases like encephalitis or meningitis.
The Culex tarsalis mosquito is found throughout Nebraska and more prevalent in western Nebraska .Larvae of Culex mosquitoes develop in standing water, especially in rural locations and adult mosquitoes will fly several miles in search of a blood meal.
Since its arrival in Nebraska in 2002, Nebraska has reported a total of 3,736 persons with WNV (68 in 2017) placing our state's rate in the top five nationally. For the current 2018 WNV season, through a well-established protocol of trapping and testing mosquito pools, surveillance will begin the last weekend in May and go through the end of September.
Most people who are infected with WNV either have no symptoms or experience mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches before fully recovering. Some persons may develop a mild rash or swollen lymph glands. Most people who become infected will get better on their own. If illness does occur, symptoms generally appear within 3 to 15 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
According to Annette Spooner, BSN, RN, Infection Prevention at MCH&HS, "Prevention strategies are key to avoiding West Nile Virus and its complications that could adversely affect our elderly population especially."
West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), and acute flaccid paralysis (a polio-like syndrome) in which muscles become very weak or paralyzed. Symptoms may include: headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, coma, tremors, convulsions, and muscle weakness or paralysis. Intensive supportive therapy includes hospitalization, IV therapy, airway management and prevention of secondary infections. At its most serious, WNV can cause permanent neurological damage and death.
Those over age 50 (especially those over 65) are at the greatest risk for complications and should take precautions from June through October:
- Use insect repellant containing DEET when spending time outdoors. This is an important action to reduce the chances of getting bitten by an infected mosquito
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are active
- Avoid shaded, bushy areas where mosquitoes rest
- Limit outdoor activity, especially at dusk when mosquitoes are most active
Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing or slow moving water. Standing water can accumulate in unused tires, cans, unused pools and pool covers and other receptacles that collect water. Dump water from containers after it rains to eliminate breeding areas. Mosquitoes will also enter homes through broken screens and open windows and doors. Keep mosquitoes out of the house by fixing broken screens.
"Taking preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate pools of standing water around your home is much easier and cost effective than dealing with the Illness caused by the virus and its complications", said Spooner.
Contact your health care provider if you have concerns. If symptoms of high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, and severe headaches occur, see your doctor immediately.
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