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West Nile Virus and You: What You Need To Know

Culex MosquitoTis the season to soak up some sun by the pool or on the beach, or perhaps the golf course. For others, enjoying an after-work neighborhood stroll is the ideal way to clear away the distractions and noise of the day. Others still, will mow their lawns at this more convenient time of day, giving little thought to the West Nile virus (WNV)-carrying mosquitoes hovering nearby and their potentially life-threatening infecting bites.

The transmission of the West Nile virus is through the bite of an infected female mosquito, as only the females feed on blood. The CDC, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that in 2012, there were 5,674 reported human cases of West Nile Virus leading to 286 deaths.”

Prevention is paramount and taking a few extra minutes to coat oneself with a DEET- fortified mosquito repellent can be the difference between remaining out of harm’s way and contracting a mosquito-borne disease like WNV. “When shopping for an insect repellent always look for one that has the ‘EPA Registered Product’ distinction,” said Nancy Troyano, Training Manager and Entomologist at Rentokil (Ehrlich).

Troyano also added that the ‘EPA Registered Product’ distinction indicates that the repellent was mixed in a certain manner whereas other repellents are not, which  oftentimes leads to products that are far less effective. Some other, less invasive symptoms of West Nile virus are: fatigue, fever, nausea, rashes, headaches, vomiting, muscle pain or aches and anorexia.

Troyano also explained that a repellent with a 25% DEET rating on the spray canister, indicates a 2 hour barrier of protection against mosquitoes. In other words, it needs to be re-applied after the two hour limit has passed.

DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. It is used to repel biting insects, namely ticks that may carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946, and registered for use by the general public in 1957.

Some other ways of limiting mosquito populations are to avoid areas where mosquitoes are more likely to congregate, such as areas with dense vegetation, wearing light-colored long sleeves and pants if spending time outside during hours from dusk until dawn, drain any standing water from buckets, flower pots, and barrels. Change the water in pet bowls, drill holes in tire swings so that water drains out. Install or repair window screens.

The West Nile virus was first detected in New York in 1999 and in Pennsylvania the following year. Dr. David J. Dausey, chair of the public health department at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. and director of the Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health, told CBSNews.com in 2012 that “higher temperatures and fluctuations between rainfall and drought provide ideal conditions that have biological impact on mosquitoes, thereby increasing the chances of a West Nile outbreak.”

The Dallas Morning News reported the first WNV case of 2013 in late May but noted that “About 80 percent of those infected will have no noticeable symptoms; about 20 percent will have a fever, headache or chills and about 1 in 150 people will suffer more severe symptoms.” The mosquito virus can cause meningitis, encephalitis and a polio-like paralysis. People infected with the West Nile virus typically exhibit symptoms between 3 and 14 days. People who are at higher risk are generally people over the age of 50.

The best form of prevention is avoidance of high mosquito areas and times of the day in which West Nile virus infected mosquitoes thrive: dusk until dawn. There’s a lot that we can do regarding prevention. An ounce of prevention just might save a life.

 

 

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