West Nile Virus: Prevention Tips as Mosquitos Become Active

West Nile Virus: Prevention Tips as Mosquitos Become Active

Mosquito season has already begun, so act now to reduce your risk of West Nile Virus.

What is the significance of the West Nile virus?

West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. Mosquitoes contract the disease from infected birds, then pass it on to other birds, animals, and humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,768 confirmed cases of WNV and 122 deaths were reported in Illinois between 2002 and 2021.

Why does WNV activity increase during the summer months?

Temperatures, precipitation, relative humidity, and wind influence WNV activity. In hot, dry weather, mosquitoes that carry WNV multiply rapidly in stagnant water (i.e., ditches, birdbaths, flowerpots, buckets, etc.).

Subsequently, most WNV cases are reported during the summer and early fall when mosquito populations are most active.

When WNV-infected mosquitoes increase, so does the risk of transmission to birds, pets, livestock (particularly horses), and humans.

What symptoms of WNV become apparent with infection?

Approximately 80 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito have no disease symptoms. However, the remaining 20% could experience a wide range of symptoms.

Once a WNV-infected mosquito has bitten an individual, symptoms usually begin within 3-14 days. In humans, mild cases of WNV may cause a slight fever or headache.

Individuals suffering from more severe cases of WNV may experience prolonged fever, head and body aches, disorientation, and convulsions. The most severe WNV infections in humans can result in meningitis, paralysis, and death.

Individuals with chronic health conditions and those 60 years and older are at greater risk for more severe illness.

Seek medical attention if you have experienced a mosquito bite and develop any of the above symptoms. While most individuals recover from WNV without difficulty, those experiencing more severe illnesses may need medical intervention.

What can we do in May to minimize our risk of WNV infection?

Follow the “3-Rs” to help lower the risk of WNV for you and your family.

#1 - Reduce
Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood by eliminating standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps:

    1. Once a week, empty and scrub any items that hold water, like buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers.
    2. Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
    3. Use larvicides to treat ornamental ponds and large containers of water not used for drinking that cannot be covered or dumped out.
    4. Cover open vents or plumbing pipes using wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.

#2 - Repel
Repel mosquitoes by using personal protection. against WNV infection can
The CDC urges you to take personal precautions to help reduce your risk of exposure to WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

      1. Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk.
      2. Use EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET and apply it when outside.
      3. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect vulnerable skin from mosquito bites, especially if you cannot avoid areas or times where mosquito activity is high.

#3 - Report
Report any areas with unattended standing water (vacated swimming pools, drainage ditches, junk yards, etc.) to your local municipal or township authority or local health department. Reducing areas where mosquitoes lay eggs will help reduce the risk of WNV for people, pets, and livestock.

Where can I find additional information about West Nile virus and its prevention?

The Moultrie County Health Department (MCHD) encourages all individuals in Central Illinois to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.

More information about WNV, other mosquito-borne illnesses, and prevention is available through the IDPH, the CDC, or by contacting the MCHD at (217) 728-4114.

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