West Nile Virus on the Rise

This article is about the dangers of the West Nile virus and why cases of it have risen to such high numbers this year. This article also talks about some of the ways to protect yourself from infection.

    Mosquitos are more than merely an itchy nuisance. We often forget that these bloodsuckers can spread deadly diseases even here in the United States. This year, the numbers if people infected with the West Nile virus has reached record highs, and many have even died from the disease. What is causing this increase and what can be done to protect yourself?

    Due to a mild winter and early spring, the mosquito population was able to increase quickly this year, meaning that we started the hot months with more mosquitos than usual. High temperatures and infrequent rainfall have led to an increase in warm, stagnant pools which provide perfect breeding grounds for mosquito larvae. An increase of mosquitos is a strong indication that more people are likely to be infected by the disease because it is easier to spread.

    According to experts, the problem of mosquito borne illnesses is only going to get worse. Climate change is a large factor in this, as winters become milder and summers hotter. Many officials worry about other diseases spread by mosquitos as well such as yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria. These diseases, usually associated with the rainforest, are spread by mosquitos. Therefore, an increase in mosquito population due to the ideal weather for their breeding and survival could potentially lead to an increase in cases of these diseases.

    Most commonly, those infected with West Nile reside in the southern states, such as Texas and Louisiana but this doesn’t mean that if you live in a northern state you are not at risk. Thirty-two states have reported cases of West Nile virus, including Massachusetts and Minnesota.

    West Nile virus is a disease that is passed through the blood stream, frequently by mosquitos. West Nile is a type of flavivirus. Many people who are exposed to west Nile virus have no symptoms and do not know they had the disease at all. For those who display symptoms, they are likely to be feverish, have a headache, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, a sore throat or a rash. Old age, pregnancy and weakened immune systems are the most likely causes of displaying symptoms. If these are your only symptoms, you most likely do not have a life threatening strain of the virus. If you experience confusion, a stiff neck, loss of consciousness, and muscle weakness, then go to the doctor’s immediately, because this could be the life threatening form of the virus.

    What can you do to protect yourself? Don’t skimp on the bugspray. It may smell awful and burn your eyes, but wear it and reapply. Another option would be to move to Maine or Alaska, where there have been no reported cases of the disease, (though this is not a serious suggestion.) Drain any pools of standing water near your home and wear long pants and long sleeves when outside, whenever possible. If you experience any severe symptoms, go to the doctor to be tested for this disease. Just because we live in the United States does not mean West Nile virus is not a danger, so be prepared and watch out for the warning signs.

Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments