It is that time of year again. Break out the sunscreen, water, and umbrellas. Whatever your outdoor pleasure, please do not forget the mosquito repellent! Summer also brings the return of mosquitos, their bites, and the diseases they may carry.
West Nile Virus is a viral infection that is primarily transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. The mosquitos generally contract the virus from infected birds, but there is no current link of transmission directly from birds to humans. West Nile Virus infections tend to be found in between summer and fall. Symptoms of the West Nile Virus can be nonexistent or more intense. These symptoms range from a mild-moderate fever to a more serious neurologic illness that can be fatal. The more severe illness can happen to anyone, but people over sixty years old or with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk to develop severe complications. The actual illness takes one-to-two weeks to develop after a mosquito bite. There is no vaccine against West Nile Virus, and there are no specific treatments other than supportive care. The severe neurologic disease may even require care within a hospital for more advanced supportive measures. The most common mosquito species that caries West Nile Virus is the Culex species, and they tend to bite more commonly from dusk to dawn.
The best way to keep you and your family safe is to use adequate mosquito protection. Try to avoid being outside during high risk bite times if possible. Once a week, please dump out any standing water around your house to help prevent breeding of mosquitos. You should also use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered mosquito repellent (DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, 2-undecanone) whenever you are going to be outside. You can find the right repellent for you and your family at https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you. You can add extra protection by wearing long sleeve clothing and pants during high risk bite times. If you are sleeping outdoors or have small children or babies, you can cover their car seat, stroller, or tent with mosquito netting as well. Avoid applying any EPA-registered mosquito repellent to a child’s hands, mouth, eyes, or irritated/open skin. Do not apply insect repellant to infants younger than 2 months old. Once you return indoors, be sure to rinse off all insect repellent.
Surveillance for West Nile Virus was initiated in Louisiana in the spring of 2000. This involves local mosquito abatement groups initiating testing of dead birds, live birds, mosquito pools, and sentinel chicken flocks. As of the most recent reporting week, there have been thirty-five cases of West Nile Virus in East Baton Rouge Parish, two of which were found in humans. You can visit http://ldh.la.gov/assets/oph/Center-PHCH/Center-CH/infectious-epi/Arboviral/arboweekly/2018/ARBO_1827.pdf for an up to date report of your parish.
Now is the time to start protecting yourselves. Remember your EPA-registered mosquito repellent with the rest of your summer necessities. Avoid being outside during high risk bite times, but if you are, please try to wear long sleeve clothing with pants. Keep areas around your home free of standing water by dumping out flower pots, buckets, and pools. If you think that you are experiencing any symptoms, contact your internist for further evaluation. Enjoy a safe and happy rest of your summer.