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Reducing the risk of West Nile Virus infection

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Mohnke
  • 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

It's that time of year again when the mosquitoes are in full force.  It's also time for Public Health to begin its annual mosquito surveillance program.  Public Health traps mosquitoes to identify the species and breeding locations causing a nuisance to the base populace and to prevent the spread of disease.

The West Nile Virus, or WNV, was first reported in New York in 1999 and has progressively spread west.  It has since been an ongoing problem in the U.S. including Illinois. 


WNV was first detected in Illinois in 2001, and by 2002, all but two of the state's 102 counties had a positive human, animal, or mosquito.  In 2013, Illinois reported 117 human cases, 11 human deaths, and more than 2,700 positive mosquitoes, while St. Clair County reported five human cases.  West Nile virus positive bird and mosquito batch has been reported in Illinois for 2014.


WNV is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.  It may cause encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain.  It can take anywhere from three to 14 days for symptoms to appear, once bitten.  Symptoms are usually mild and may include fever, headache, body ache, skin rash, or swollen lymph glands.  More serious symptoms may include severe headache, high fever, and neck stiffness.  There is currently no specific therapy to treat WNV, and no vaccine available to prevent the disease.  If a person thinks they may have WNV, they must seek medical care immediately.


Risk of transmission is greatest during the summer season, May through October, when mosquito breeding is at its peak.  While everyone is at risk of getting the disease, young children and persons greater than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe illness.


Remember three "R"s--Reduce, Repel and Report:


- Reduce exposure: Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn.


- Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens.  Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings.  Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.


- Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including flowerpots, wading pools, old tires and any other receptacles.  Change water in birdbaths weekly.


- You should also keep weeds and tall grass cut short.


- Repel:  When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions.  Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.


- Report: There is no evidence of anyone getting the disease from handling dead birds, but if you see any dead birds that have died within 24 hours, call the St. Clair County Health Department at 233-7769.  Our goal is total prevention for our beneficiaries, and we definitely need the assistance of everyone on base.