How to recognize and prevent the spread of West Nile Virus.
The Westchester County Health Department recently announced that this season’s first batches of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus were detected in Elmsford, Hastings, Mount Vernon and Rye.
Initially identified in 1937 in Uganda, East Africa, West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease causing flu like illness that was first discovered in New York in 1999. It is most common during August and early-September when mosquitoes are abundant.
“In the past several years we have seen mosquitoes carrying the virus moving toward southern Westchester,” says Dr. Qurat Mudassar, Internal Medicine & Infectious Disease, White Plains Hospital Physician Associates. “Symptoms of West Nile Virus often occur between 3 and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and can include fever, headache, body aches and joint pain. They can be more serious for people over 60 or those with underlying medical conditions.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms, and only about 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness.
Dr. Mudassar notes that West Nile Virus can be often be managed through supportive care, however a small percentage of people contract encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, which can affect the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
“The key is for all of us to be vigilant and take measures to ensure our yards are not breeding grounds for mosquitos,” she says.
To reduce the chances for mosquitoes to breeding around your home, follow the “5 Ds” of mosquito-bite prevention:
- Dusk/Dawn – Avoid dusk and dawn activities during the summer when mosquitoes are most active.
- Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
- DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
- Drain – Empty any outdoor containers holding standing water because they are breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
- Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.
Prevention is a key weapon against West Nile Virus, but if you think you or a family member might have it, don’t hesitate to call and see your doctor.