Summer is here, and so are those nasty mosquitoes. While enjoying the warm summer
breeze, the chances of a mosquito sucking blood from your delicate skin is more
than likely. If you think all it can do is give you an itch, think again.
Some mosquitoes carry a deadly virus called the West Nile Virus. This virus is
commonly found in Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and West Asia. The virus
needs a host to survive. Mosquitoes, horses, birds, and humans are some common
hosts for the virus.
As of July 8, 2003, the West Nile Virus had spread to 28 states. According to the
Center for Disease Control (CDC) there were 4,156 reported cases of the West Nile
Virus last year, of which 284 people died of complications.
Not all people bitten by infected mosquitoes will get sick. Only about 20% will
develop symptoms of the virus. Symptoms of the West Nile Virus are similar to
symptoms of the common flu: headaches, body aches, fevers, skin rashes on the
torso and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms develop within 3-14 days of a bite.
One of the serious effects of the virus is brain infection. Although rare, it is
estimated that 1 in 150 people infected with the virus will develop encephalitis
or meningitis. These conditions are life threatening and require hospitalization
and intensive care.
Most mosquitoes that bite humans are female. Female mosquitoes require human blood
protein to produce their eggs. Mosquitoes are active from dusk to dawn. People who
are outdoors during these times should take extra precaution from mosquito bites.
Wearing long sleeves and pants may prevent bites, as well as applying insect
repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-polyamide). Other preventive measures
include checking all window screens for holes and tears and draining still water,
which can be a nestling place for mosquitoes.
There is no certainty that an infected mosquito will kill you. The chances are
very small, but taking preventive steps and knowing the signs can lead to a carefree,
fun filled summer for us all.