You know that pesky little bug that stings you every once in a while in the summer? The one that draws a little blood and leaves a small, itchy bump behind? Yes, you guessed right–I’m talking about the mosquito.
It seems that many of us have forgotten as of late that this pesky little bug can, in fact, leave more than just an itch. It can leave West Nile Virus as well.
While the virus may not present itself in everybody, there still exists a chance that you could become seriously ill if you contract it. About 80% of people will have no symptoms at all, while about 20% of people will show minor symptoms. These include fever, aches and pains, nausea, stomach upset, and at times swollen glands or a rash. Most times symptoms clear up within a few days, though they have been known to last for weeks at a time.1
More severe symptoms can cause permanent neurological problems. Symptoms of severe West Nile infection can include a high fever, tremors, muscle weakness, vision problems, paralysis, headaches, and stiffness. These types of symptoms affect about one in 150 people who are infected with the virus.1
The most common way of contracting West Nile Virus is through the bite of an infected mosquito, which has in turn caught the virus from a tainted bird. You cannot catch the virus from everyday contact with an infected person, though a few cases have shown the transmission of the virus from person to person through transfusions or the birthing process.1
It seems that despite the continuous threat of the virus, many of us are not taking the necessary precautions to avoid contraction. Now, I am not saying that you must sit indoors during mosquito season, but instead that you use reasonable cautionary measures.
For example, do not leave standing water lying around outside your home, as it only serves to attract mosquitoes. Instead, make sure that you dump out any water that might be pooling around in your backyard. It’s best to walk around after a rainstorm and dump any water that may have been collected so as to deter any mosquitoes from coming around.
If you are planning a walk through the woods, you should use a mosquito repellent, be it DEET or a natural solution–whichever you choose is fine. Try to expose as little skin as possible. Many people wear nets, covered hats, and protective clothing when raking leaves so not to get bitten when the bugs are disturbed. Even if you are just sitting around outside and there are mosquitoes you should still use some sort of repellant.
Make sure that your screens do not have holes in them that mosquitoes can get through. Also, if you spend a lot of time sitting around out of doors you might want to look into getting a screen tent that will protect you from mosquitoes.
Those over the age of 50 are more likely to develop more severe symptoms and should take extra precautions when outside. If you think you might have contracted the West Nile Virus and your symptoms are mild, they might improve on their own. If the symptoms get worse, you should seek medical attention.1
If you find a dead bird, do not touch it. Call your local health department instead. By taking steps to control mosquitoes and minimizing your contact with them, you can reduce your chances of catching West Nile Virus.