West Nile Threat

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Warm weather is bringing back a reminder for Nebraskans to do what they can to protect themselves against the West Nile virus.

Last year, after much publicity that yielded many questions and hundreds of tests of dead birds and other animals, the health officials dealt with one of the nation's worst bouts with West Nile virus.

There were 9,006 cases of the mosquito-borne virus in the United States last year. The Centers of Disease Control says West Nile caused 220 deaths. Nebraska had 29 deaths and 2,496 positive cases last year from the virus. Only Colorado had more deaths and total cases.

Health officials say the number last year were very high and testing got expensive. They expect limiting the type of birds being tested this year because of the costs.

This year, only crows, bluejays, hawks and owls will be tested for West Nile virus. The health experts say those birds are fairly good indicators of where the virus currently is, where its moving, and how hard its hitting certain areas.

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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


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