West Nile Virus Back on the Upswing — How Can You Protect Yourself?

The infamous West Nile virus was a huge news story back in 2002 and 2003, but the fervor around it had quieted down.  2012 has the virus back on the march.  The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Wednesday that showed that the number of reported infections in the nation rose by more than 40 percent.  That’s in one week people.  The total is up to 1,590 and 66 deaths have been confirmed to have been caused by West Nile.  Okay that was the scary part.  Now let’s dig a little deeper.

The reality is studies have shown that around 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile virus by a mosquito bite will develop no symptoms at all.  They will never have a clue they were “sick.”  Therefore, it goes without saying that there are a lot more people out there with the virus at some point or another that go unreported.  The remaining twenty percent will develop symptoms that run the gamut.  It could be as inconsequential as fever, headaches, or a rash, or as severe as paralysis and meningitis.  These more severe cases, referred to as neuroinvasive, are by far the most likely to result in death.

Fortunately, mosquitoes die a lot quicker than their blood-sucking relatives, vampires.

The CDC believes that this year will rival that of the busiest West Nile years, if not becoming the new winner.  There have been confirmed cases of the virus in every state in the continental U.S., but Texas is far and away the leader with 783 of the 1,590 cases reported so far this year.  You can contract West Nile anywhere, but if you live in Texas, it may be especially wise to take precautions to protect you and your children against West Nile.  We’ll take a moment to let our readers know some simple things they can do to eliminate or greatly reduce the chances of getting this pesky virus that can be deadly in the right situation.

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes.  Mosquito season is at its height right now and will continue for a few more weeks in most parts of the United States.  Anytime you know you are going to be outdoors for extended periods of time, it is wise to use insect repellents on exposed skin to keep mosquitoes at bay.  However, exposed skin may not be enough.  Scientists don’t know why some people seem to attract mosquitoes more than others, but if you are wearing thin clothing (as many would be in the southern half of the nation where temperatures are still very high at this time of year), determined mosquitoes may be able to bite you through your clothes.  You can either sacrifice a little comfort by dressing with heavier clothing or look into a special type of repellent for application to clothing.  It should be noted that you are not to spray insect repellent on areas that will be clothed.  This can harm the skin.  Most people will not have to get this drastic in their protection measures, but if you are a mosquito magnet, be aware.

As a general rule, you can do yourself a lot of good by just staying indoors during prime times for mosquito activity.  This includes dawn, dusk, and early evening.  A lot of people overlook an obvious tactic to reduce the chances of bites.  Make your yard and home an unfriendly place to mosquitoes.  Don’t leave standing water around…this is where mosquitoes breed.  Also, like tons of other pests, trash and food scraps are sure to bring them in.  One source of standing water that people often forget is clogged gutters.  Stop mosquitoes from breeding and you will have much less to worry about.

You won’t find this on any official information sources, but there are plenty of studies that have shown that garlic consumption works wonders for insect repellent as well.  As a matter of fact, the concept of vampires is descended from this very effect.  Think about it.  Mosquitoes do what?  Suck human blood.  Garlic repels them.  Get it?  Well, you don’t have to wear it around your neck.  Eating lots of garlic causes you to be a walking, talking repellent to mosquitoes.  Of course, you may repel people as well with that breath, but consider supplements if downing that much garlic doesn’t sound good to you.

Some people believe that the mosquito population is worse this year because of the relatively mild winter experienced by most states last year.  The idea is that the mosquitoes were not killed off as quickly as normal and were able to multiply more rapidly.  There is no scientific data on this one, but ask any global warming aficionado if you want to a steadfast convincing opinion that this is just another hazardous effect human’s are having on the Earth.  Or it could just be a bad year.

Sometimes it is what it is.