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Are you protected from West Nile Virus?
Now that the weather is starting to get warmer, what are some of the seasonal illnesses that seniors should be aware of? West Nile Virus (WNV) is an epidemic that usually flares up during the summer and continues into the fall season. How do people get West Nile Virus? It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on infected birds. Only on rare occasions is WNV spread through organ transplants, blood transfusions, breastfeeding or during pregnancy from mother to baby. Although anyone can become infected with WNV, more severe cases are seen in the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system.
Four out of Five people who are infected with WNV will not have any symptoms at all. But about one in 150 people will develop severe symptoms. People usually develop these between 3 and 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The severe symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, numbness, joint pain, paralysis and vision loss. Some people even experience disorientation, swelling of the brain, tremors, seizures and coma. In the milder form, people may have fever, nausea, vomiting, headache and a rash on the chest, stomach or back.
How can I prevent WNV?
You will prevent getting WNV by preventing mosquito bites. Apply insect repellent (with DEET) on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Don’t spray repellent on the skin under clothing and don’t use Permethrin directly on the skin. Never use repellent over cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Never apply repellent to eyes or mouth. Cover up by wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants and socks sprayed with repellent while outdoors. Remember, mosquitoes bite between dusk and dawn, so limit your time outside during these hours, or be sure to use repellent and protective clothing. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Also wash treated clothing before wearing it again(http:www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect repellent.htm) . Lastly, you can Mosquito-Proof your home by fixing or installing window and door screens, drain any standing water on your property (This creates a place for mosquitoes to breed), look around every week for possible mosquito breeding places. Empty water where you can (i.e. cans, pool covers, flower pots or buckets), check that rain gutters aren’t clogged, and clean pet water bowls weekly. Also, talk to your neighbors about how to protect themselves from WNV.
Jenise Ervin RN, MSN
Director Of Public Health
Park Forest Health Department