Is the West Nile Virus Going Bad Again?

Is the West Nile Virus Going Bad Again?

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West Nile virus has been found in a record number of mosquitoes in the New York City area, with at least two known cases in humans. If you weren’t around for the last major West Nile panic about 20 years ago, you may be wondering what this disease is and if you should be concerned about it.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can infect birds and some other animals, including horses, in addition to humans. Most people who contract the virus have no symptoms. About 20% will have a fever and flu-like symptoms, but in rare cases — one in 150 people, the CDC estimates — the virus can cause more severe, neurological symptoms.

In those more severe cases, the brain or membranes can become inflamed. Symptoms may include neck stiffness, confusion, weakness, convulsions, numbness, loss of vision, or paralysis. One in ten people with a serious illness from West Nile may die.

Where is West Nile a problem?

The virus and the mosquitoes that carry it are present throughout the continental United States. The area with the highest number of cases, based on historical data, occurs in the western half of the country and is most common in the Surface running from North Dakota to Colorado.

Why is this happening now?

West Nile first made headlines in the early 2000s, but it never really went away. The City of New York Ministry of Health points out: that elevated temperatures cause mosquitoes to reproduce more quickly, likely contributing to a greater spread of the disease. The weather in the US Southwest was also wetter than usualwhich is good news for mosquitoes and bad news for us.

While the New York findings are now in the news, they aren’t the only West Nile cases. For example, California has already had 12 cases in humans this year.

What should I do?

As with any mosquito-borne illness, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being bitten. A good bug spray that includes DEET or another EPA-registered pesticide (such as picaridin) is key. You can also protect yourself by using screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home, wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible, and using a fan to keep mosquitoes away when you’re chilling out on the porch.

Mosquito Control is generally a good idea too. Mosquitoes breed in pools of standing water, so if you have buckets, flower pots, birdbaths, pits, or other places where water collects, consider dumping and cleaning them regularly, or treating them with larvicide (which kills the water baby mosquitoes) if she can’t be dumped.

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