West Nile virus has had a recent breakout in Massachusetts causing an added necessity for safety precautions. When you go out this upcoming weekend make sure you bring along your bug spray because this virus can be deadly.
After local schools canceled evening events and my own college sent out warnings, I decided to do a little research about the virus. West Nile virus was first identified in 1937 in Uganda in eastern Africa. This disease, transmitted by mosquitos, can produce mild to serious symptoms. Because West Nile is a type of flavivirus, it is part of an extremely dangerous group of RNA viruses. In this family are viruses which cause diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, and Japanese encaphilitis.
It was first discovered in the United States in the summer of 1999 in New York. However, as of September 2012, a total of 2,636 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 118 deaths, have been reported to the Center for Disease Control. Virus symptoms can vary as I said previously. These symptoms can range from headaches to stiff neck to muscle weakness. Most people infected with West Nile virus do not show symptoms; however, about 20 percent will show symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected patients will show serious symptoms, signifying a neurological infection. Full lists of symptoms can be found on websites such as the Center for Disease Control and PubMed Health.
It is important that you know how to protect yourself from this threat. Bug spray containing DEET is your best bet when it comes to repelling mosquitos. It is also a good idea to stay away from areas of still water during dusk, dawn and early evening hours. Mosquitos breed in still water so many researchers suggest changing or emptying areas such as bird baths, pools and water gardens if West Nile infested mosquitos are at high capacity in your surroundings. Also, wear long sleeve and pant layers when outside for long amounts of time, especially around still water or in late evening hours.
Certain factors will increase the risk of West Nile virus being more serious in your body if you contract it. These factors include age, immune health and pregnancy. If you are above the age of 50, you have a heightened risk. This factor also applies to newborns and infants. If you suffer from HIV or another immune deficiency disease, your change of having a serious case of West Nile is also increased. Finally, pregnant women have an extremely high risk factor and should take all precautions possible.
Until next time, protect yourself from bugs because West Nile bites!