This year's unusually heavy rainfall in Utah has the potential to produce a bumper crop of mosquitoes, which means you may be at an increased risk of contracting West Nile Virus.
How does West Nile virus spread?
The West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes themselves become infected when they feed on infected birds, which may circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. The virus eventually gets into the mosquito's salivary glands. During subsequent blood meals, the virus may be transferred into humans and animals, where it can multiply and possibly cause illness.
In a very small number of cases West Nile virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and even during pregnancy from mother to baby.
What are the symptoms and what should people do if they think they're infected?
According to the Centers for Disease Control illness from West Nile is actually rare. Most people (four out of five) infected won't even have any symptoms. About one in five will get mild symptoms, and only about one in 150 people who contract West Nile virus will develop severe symptoms. However, it's still important to prevent mosquito bites since West Nile can still cause serious illness, especially in persons with a weakened immune system or over the age of 50.
Mild infections often cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, body aches and nausea. Symptoms of mild cases may only last a few days to several weeks. Severe forms may last several weeks and some effects may not go away.
There is no cure for West Nile virus. Your doctor may suggest rest, fluids and pain-relief medications. If you have more severe symptoms, you may need to be in the hospital to receive fluids and nursing care.
What can I do to reduce my risk of becoming infected?
Protect yourself against mosquito bites:
•Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Generally, the more active ingredient a repellent contains the longer it can protect you from mosquito bites. A higher percentage of active ingredient in a repellent does not mean that your protection is better -- just that it will last longer. Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors.
•Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or other EPA-registered repellent since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to exposed skin.
•Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors, if weather permits.
•Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you are outdoors with infants.
•Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times.
•Install or repair window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from getting indoors.
Help reduce the number of mosquitoes in areas outdoors where you work or play by draining sources of standing water; doing this will reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed.
•At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans.
•Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
•Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water.
•Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
If you can't get rid of the water (for example, ornamental ponds, stock tanks, etc.) :
•Use "mosquito dunks." These are small round disks of Bacillus thurengensis that prevent mosquito larvae from hatching. They are available in many garden stores and supply catalogs.
•Use mosquito fish. These are fish known as Gambusia affinis available from mosquito abatement districts.
When will we know when the West Nile Virus is here?
The Hill AFB Public Health office seasonally traps and counts mosquitoes on Hill Air Force base. In a collaborative effort with Davis County Mosquito Abatement District, mosquitoes species are identified and tested for the West Nile virus. Information received from these results determine when and if the West Nile virus is present in the local community. Mosquito counts also assist in determining if and when spraying is needed on base to better control population numbers.
Visit the Utah Health Department Web site for weekly West Nile virus activity information. http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/wnv/DiseaseStatus/2010/2010WeeklyUpd....