News from the CDC is out. Thus far in 2012, 43 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 693 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 26 deaths, have been reported to CDC. The 693 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the second week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999.
What Is West Nile Virus?
West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe WNV is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. This fact sheet contains important information that can help you recognize and prevent West Nile virus.
What Can I Do to Prevent WNV?
When dealing with West Nile virus, prevention is your best bet. Fighting mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting this disease, along with others that mosquitoes can carry. Take the commonsense steps below to reduce your risk:
avoid bites and illness;
clean out the mosquitoes from the places where you work and play;
help your community control the disease.
Something to remember: the chance that any one person is going to become ill from a single mosquito bite remains low. the risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
Use Insect Repellent on exposed skin when you go outdoors. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Even a short time being outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite. For details on when and how to apply repellent, see Insect Repellent Use and Safety in our Questions and Answers pages. See also Using Insect Repellent Safely from the EPA.
Repellents for use on skin and clothing:
Products containing CDC-approved active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
DEET (May be used along with a separate sunscreen)
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD (Not suggested for children younger than 3-years-of-age)
In general, higher concentrations of active ingredient provide longer duration of protection, regardless of the active ingredient, although concentrations above ~50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time. Products with
Get double protection: wear long sleeves during peak mosquito biting hours, and spray repellent directly onto your clothes.
Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites When weather permits, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don't apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
Repellents for use on clothing: Certain products containing permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear, and are registered with EPA for this use. Permethrin is highly effective as an insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated laundering. The permethrin insecticide should be reapplied following the label instructions. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin.
Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours the hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many species of mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and early morning -- or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
Drain standing water from around your home
Drain Standing Water Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water. Need examples? Learn more on the Prevention of West Nile Virus Question and Answer page.
Install or Repair Screens Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having well-fitting screens on both windows and doors. Offer to help neighbors whose screens might be in bad shape.
Help Your Community
Report Dead Birds to Local Authorities Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area. Over 130 species of birds are known to have been infected with West Nile virus, though not all infected birds will die. It's important to remember that birds die from many other causes besides West Nile virus.
Mosquito Control Programs Check with local health authorities to see if there is an organized mosquito control program in your area. If no program exists, work with your local government officials to establish a program. the American Mosquito Control Association can provide advice, and their book Organization for Mosquito Control is a useful reference.
More questions about mosquito control? A source for information about pesticides and repellents is the National Pesticide Information Center, which also operates a toll-free information line: 1-800-858-7378 (check their Web site for hours).
Clean Up Mosquito breeding sites can be anywhere. Neighborhood clean up days can be organized by civic or youth organizations to pick up containers from vacant lots and parks, and to encourage people to keep their yards free of standing water. Mosquitoes don't care about fences, so it's important to control breeding sites throughout the neighborhood.
Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
How Does West Nile Virus Spread?
Infected Mosquitoes. Most often, WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.
Transfusions, Transplants, and Mother-to-Child. In a very small number of cases, WNV also has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
Not through touching. WNV is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus.
How Soon Do Infected People Get Sick?
People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after they are bitten by the infected mosquito.
How Is WNV Infection Treated?
There is no specific treatment for WNV infection. In cases with milder symptoms, people experience symptoms such as fever and aches that pass on their own, although even healthy people have become sick for several weeks. In more severe cases, people usually need to go to the hospital where they can receive supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have WNV?
Milder WNV illness improves on its own, and people do not necessarily need to seek medical attention for this infection though they may choose to do so. If you develop symptoms of severe WNV illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately. Severe WNV illness usually requires hospitalization. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are encouraged to talk to their doctor if they develop symptoms that could be WNV.
What Is the Risk of Getting Sick from WNV?
People over 50 at higher risk to get severe illness.People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms of WNV if they do get sick and should take special care to avoid mosquito bites.
Being outside means you're at risk. The more time you're outdoors, the more time you could be bitten by an infected mosquito. Pay attention to avoiding mosquito bites if you spend a lot of time outside, either working or playing.
Risk through medical procedures is very low. All donated blood is checked for WNV before being used. The risk of getting WNV through blood transfusions and organ transplants is very small, and should not prevent people who need surgery from having it. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.
What Is the CDC Doing About WNV?
CDC is working with state and local health departments and other government agencies, as well as private industry, to prepare for and prevent new cases of WNV.
Some things CDC is doing include:
Manage and maintain ArboNET, a nation-wide electronic surveillance system where states share information about WNV and other arboviral diseases
Support states develop and carry out improved mosquito prevention and control programs
Developing better, faster tests to detect and diagnose WNV
Prepare updated prevention and surveillance information for the media, the public, and health professionals
Working with partners on the development of vaccines
What Else Should I Know?
If you find a dead bird: Don't handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body. They may tell you to dispose of the bird after they log your report.
For more information call the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675 (English), (888) 246-2857 (Español), or (866) 874-2646 (TTY)
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