Why All the Buzz About West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is mainly spread to humans by mosquitoes and can cause potentially life-threatening conditions such as meningitis and encephalitis.  So far this year, infections in people have been reported in 48 states.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 50 years old and older are at greatest risk for developing serious complications if they become infected with the virus.  Being aware of the symptoms and how to minimize your risk of contracting the virus can go a long way to keeping you and your family safe this mosquito season.

What can you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones?  Wear protective clothing (i.e. long sleeves and pants) when you are outside, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.  Better yet, avoid the outdoors during these times whenever possible.  Apply an insect repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient to your skin and clothing before heading outside.  Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so make sure to remove any potential breeding sites from your yard.

Most people who contract West Nile virus experience no symptoms at all.  Others have mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, head and body aches, and nausea.  A few people develop serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention—high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, convulsions, muscle weakness, and numbness among other symptoms.  Symptoms can start anywhere between a few days and two weeks after getting bitten by a mosquito, so don’t forgo seeing a doctor just because you haven’t been outside in a few days.

Be proactive when it comes to protecting yourself against this virus.  While the risk of having any symptoms from West Nile virus is relatively low, serious complications can arise, especially if you are over 50 years old.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.