CDC: Why Risk It? Just Use Insect Repellent To Help Prevent West Nile Virus
Most schools across the country are back in session. As if kids, parents, and school personnel don’t have enough to think about already, they can add one more thing to the list – West Nile Virus. The CDC reported that as of September 4th, there have been 1,993 cases of and 87 deaths from West Nile Virus. It is the worst outbreak of the disease since it was first detected in the U.S. in 1999. West Nile Virus tends to peak in the late summer and early fall, just as kids are heading back to school and participating in after-school activities.
News coverage often focuses heavily on the number of deaths and hospitalizations from West Nile Virus, which may scare parents and children who don’t have all the facts. With that said, the virus should be taken seriously, and measures can be taken to protect against contracting it.
The CDC and your local health department are great resources for the latest up-to-date information regarding the virus. Please contact your physician if you need medical attention; information in this article is only intended to be informative and is not to be considered medical advice.
Signs and Symptoms
The good news is that about 80% of people who are infected with the virus will show no symptoms at all, and may not even know they have contracted the disease. If symptoms do arise, it is typically 3-14 days after the person is bitten by an infected mosquito.
Up to 20% of people experience mild, flu-like symptoms such as:
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Body Aches
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
In rare and extreme cases, a serious infection can occur, called encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
People over the age of 50, and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing serious complications.
How Is It Treated?
West Nile Virus is a virus and not bacterial, therefore, antibiotics are not effective to treat it. The CDC states that the milder form of the illness typically resolves on its own, but you can choose to seek medical attention if you feel it is needed. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with the severe form of the illness, you should seek medical attention immediately.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Family?
The number one thing you can do is prevent mosquito bites!
Tips for preventing mosquito bites:
- Check the screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
- Empty any pools of standing water near your home to prevent mosquito breeding.
- Mosquitoes tend to be more active during dawn and dusk. Avoid going out during these times if possible.
- If you must go out, wear socks/shoes, long sleeves and pants to cover your skin.
- If you find a dead bird, do not touch it. Birds also carry WSV. Call your local health department for reporting and instructions on how to dispose of the body.
- Community spraying for mosquitoes may also prevent mosquito breeding.
- Use mosquito repellent containing DEET (alternatives include Picaridin and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus)
Recommendations for Repellent Use on Children
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, DEET should not be used in infants less than 2 months old (Consult your child’s pediatrician for their recommendation if you have concerns.)
- Follow any age restrictions and instructions listed on the product label.
- Do not use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on children under age of 3 years.
- Apply the product to your hands first, and then apply to the child’s skin.
- Avoid contact with the child’s eyes and mouth, use sparingly around the ears.
- Do not apply it to the child’s hands since children tend to put them in their mouth.
- Do not apply repellent under clothing. If repellent is applied to clothing, wash treated clothing before wearing again.
Read all of the CDC’s Q & A on Insect Repellent and Use>>
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). CDC West Nile Virus fact sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factsheet.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics, Surveillance, and Control. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/Mapsactivity/surv&control12MapsAnybyState.htm
U.S. National Library of Medicine. A.D.A.M. Medical Library – West Nile Virus. (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004457/
Kids Health from Nemours. What’s West Nile Virus? (2012). http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/west_nile.html#