West Nile Virus
West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness that when contracted, causes fever, headache, body aches, skin rash or swollen lymph glands. If the virus enters the brain, it can cause a condition known as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) which is potentially deadly.
Cases of West Nile Virus have been confirmed in Connecticut. Since 1999 57 state residents have become ill due to infection with the virus, including 52 persons infected in Connecticut and 5 who were infected while traveling in other states. Three persons have died.
How do people get West Nile virus?
West Nile virus, like St. Louis Encephalitis virus, is spread to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes (primarily the Culex species). A mosquito is infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. In rare instances, the virus has been spread by blood transfusion, organ transplant, breastfeeding, and from mother to child during pregnancy.
Once infected, people over 50 years of age are more likely to become ill and develop serious symptoms. Outdoor activities is the principal risk factor. The risk from medical procedures is very low – donated blood is tested. Pregnancy and nursing also present a very low risk.
Is there a treatment for West Nile virus infection?
Although there is no specific treatment, medication or cure, the symptoms and complications of the disease can be treated. Most people who get this illness recover from it.
All Connecticut residents should continue to take personal protective measures to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and reduce mosquito breeding sites around their homes. Help do your part in preventing the spread of West Nile Virus. The following are some tips on taking Personal Precautions and what you can do to identify and eliminate potential breeding areas:
• Minimize time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn when most Mosquitoes are most active.
• Be sure door and window screens are tight filling and in good repair.
• Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are most active. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials that keep mosquitoes away from the skin.
• Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure and to protect small babies when outdoors.
• Consider the use of mosquito repellent, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.
• When using DEET (the most widely used insect repellent) use the lowest concentration effective for the time spent outdoors (for example 6% lasts approximately 2 hours and 20% for 4 hours) and wash treated skin when returning indoors. Do not apply under clothing, to wounds or irritated skin, the hands of children, or infants less than 2 months.
Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways. Source reduction activities include:
• Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
• Empty standing water from used or discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property (e.g. tire swings.)
• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left out of doors.
• Clean clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains.
• Turn over objects that may trap water when not in use, such as plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, etc.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools. When not in use, cover pools.
• Change water in bird baths on a weekly basis.
• Use landscaping techniques to eliminate areas where water can collect on your property.
BY DEBORAH PETERSON SWIFT/COURANT STAFF WRITER • ILLUSTRATION BY PHIL LOHMAN/THE HARTFORD COURANT • Reproduced with Authorization from THE HARTFORD COURANT
You know something is awry when guests at your backyard barbecue opt to stay indoors. That's why we set out to create a fantasy yard, where the pesky house mosquito doesn't have a chance. We had notions of banging together bird and bat houses, and then kicking back with a mint iced tea to watch these aerial acrobats devour mosquito by the boatload. Guests wood sport personal mosquito repellers, and kamikaze mosquitoes would fly in a backyard bug zapper.
Instead, we found there is no magic bullet to defend against these purveyors of West Nile Virus (though experts say the chances of human infection are small.) Mechanical devices are nearly useless,
and while bats and birds help, it is homeowners who must do the brunt of the work to annihilate the summer's most hated insect.
Buying larva-eating fish for the garden pond, fixing window screens and eliminating pools of standing water are among the best strategies. The mosquitoes biting backyard guests were probably born in your gutters, wading pool or any other place puddles stagnate for more than five days. The prolific female mosquito lays a raft of 100 to 300 eggs, and the common house mosquito does not travel far from where it hatches.
Hmm. Maybe those guests on the screened porch are on to something.
Sources: Gale Ridge-O'Connor, entomology assistant, and Carol Lemmon, deputy state entomologist, Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station; Wayne J. Crans, Director,Mosquito Research and Control, Rutgers University; Todd Russo, naturalist, Connecticut Audubon Society of Glastonbury; and the State Department of Environmental Protection
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