Summer Tips for West Nile, Zika Prevention
Mosquitos have our attention with the emergence of Zika virus worldwide and the first human case of West Nile virus of the season in Nebraska. These pesky insects are already out in force and are being monitored by South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD).
While West Nile has not yet been detected in South Heartland mosquitoes this season, mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile in each of the past five years. In addition to trapping mosquitoes to test for West Nile, South Heartland will also be trapping to find out if south central Nebraska has mosquitoes that are capable of carrying tropical diseases caused by Chikungunya, Dengue, and Zika viruses.
“Fortunately, most people (4 out of 5) who are infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms. This is also true of Zika virus.” said Michele Bever, Executive Director for South Heartland District Health Department.
Both viruses may cause severe symptoms that require hospitalization. No vaccine exists for human protection for either disease. “Avoiding areas where mosquitoes are abundant and taking precautions against getting mosquito bites are two ways to prevent illness.” said Dr. Bever.
The symptoms of severe illness due to West Nile can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, and paralysis. Milder symptoms can include headache, body aches, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash.
Symptoms related to a Zika virus infection may include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A Zika infection during pregnancy could result in a baby born with microcephaly (small brain).
“As summer is a time when many people like to travel, women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant should check the CDC website to see if their travel destination has been affected by Zika virus.” said Jessica Warner, Disease Surveillance Coordinator for South Heartland.
Men may also be infected by Zika and should avoid travel to affected areas when planning for a pregnancy with their partner.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests several ways to prevent mosquito bites:
- When you are outdoors, be sure to wear mosquito repellent containing DEET, or other insect repellent that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow the directions on the package for proper use.
- Wear long pants and sleeves or stay indoors.
- Ensure your home is mosquito proof by checking to see that screens on your windows and doors are in good shape.
- Avoid areas of standing water and be aware of areas where mosquitoes are abundant.
Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between the birds and the mosquitoes in a particular area. If you find a dead bird of the corvidae family (jays, magpies, crows and ravens) please contact the health department at 402-462-6211 or toll free at 1-877-238-7595 to report the bird and find out whether it could be tested for West Nile virus.
Dr. Bever encourages us to remember the four “D”s of effective prevention of mosquito bites: Dusk to Dawn (avoid outdoor activity or take extra care to protect yourself), Dress Appropriately (long sleeves, pants, socks when outside during the peak hours and locations of mosquito activity), DEET (in your mosquito repellent), Drain (any standing water). Remind your family members and friends of these easy steps to “Fight the Bite”.
* * * * * * * * *