West Nile virus is a disease that can cause neurological complications in humans, including encephalitis, swelling and inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, swelling and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The majority of infected people (70-80 percent) do not develop any symptoms. Occasionally, though, the disease can become severe. A vaccine has been developed to prevent horses from contracting the disease. At this time, however, a vaccine has not been developed for humans.
West Nile virus is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Birds are the carriers of the disease, and mosquitoes become contaminated by biting an infected bird. These infected mosquitoes can then spread the disease by biting people and animals. However, the disease can not be transmitted through person-to-person contact, including hugging and kissing.
The key to West Nile prevention is to keep the mosquitoes from spreading the disease. The first step in prevention is to keep them from having a place to nest. There are several ways to mosquito-proof a home:
-Eliminate standing water. Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in puddles of standing water.
-Minimize the risk of standing water by emptying extra water from potted plants, buckets, animal water bowls, swimming pool covers, and bird baths.
-Keep rain gutters clean and unclogged.
-Dispose of old tires, trash, and anything else that could collect water.
-Drill holes in tire swings to allow water to drain.
-Make sure all window and door screens are properly fitting.
-When not in use, keep children’s pools empty and on their side.
There are also several West Nile prevention techniques to protect an individual and ward off mosquitoes. This is especially important for people who are over 50, have high blood pressure or are immuno-compromised. These techniques include:
-Making sure all bare sections of skin are covered in an EPA-registered bug repellent.
-Covering as much skin as possible, depending on the weather. When wearing thin clothing that mosquitoes could potentially bite through, spray the clothes with an insect repellent.
-Put mosquito netting over infant carriers.
-Avoid being outside during peak mosquito hours, which are the evening hours, dusk and dawn.
Another way of preventing West Nile virus from spreading is through community action. It is important to report any sightings of dead birds to the local authorities. Also communities can organize clean-up days, especially ones that focus on vacant lots and parks.