West Nile Virus Concerns

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All the rain we've been getting could be making the West Nile virus situation worse. Days of heavy rain have created pools of standing water making perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Experts at the Health Department say, so far this year, West Nile has not appeared in El Paso County. But the wet weather could help West Nile make an early appearance this year.

Evon Benitez came down with West Nile earlier this month. Her case and another in Pueblo are the only two human cases of West Nile in the state this year. "It’s about a month ahead of what we had last year, as far as seeing human cases," says Lee Griffen with the El Paso County Health Department.

This week’s thunderstorms are giving West Nile carrying mosquitoes a place to breed. "What we're concerned with the rain is the weather. After the rain, if we get a hot spell, then we're gonna have a very high potential for more mosquitoes to emerge," says Griffen.

There were 112 cases and one death from West Nile in El Paso County last year. Local health experts learned from those cases. The conventional wisdom was, if you only got the West Nile virus, it was no more serious than the flu. Now the experts know better. "Even if you don’t get the encephalitis form of it, it can linger for an average of 22 days," says Griffen.

So with all the rain health experts want people to check around their home and clear all standing water. And they say the best protection is to wear insect repellant with DEET, especially in the early morning and at sunset.

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West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report