“Mosquitoes with West Nile virus have been found throughout St. Louis County,” say Saint Louis County Health Officials. West Nile virus (WNV), a mosquito-borne infection that can cause serious illness is spreading rapidly right in our back yard.
WNV “can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord),” according to westnilefever.com.
The virus originated in Africa, but there was no activity reported in the United States until a 1999 outbreak in New York. Since then the disease has spread all over the U.S. In 2003, WNV occurred in 45 states including Missouri and killed about 9,800 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Disease Maps site.
In a report updated on April 18, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that approximately 80% of those who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all. According to CDC, people over 50 are at a higher risk than any other age.
John Shelton, spokesman for the Saint Louis County Health Department, tells SciJourner, “Its like the flu: you have flu like symptoms, [headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever][you have] trouble breathing, and [you get] tired.” It typically takes about 3 to 14 days after a mosquito bite to determine if you are infected.
WNV has to run its course through the body since there is no vaccine or over-the-counter medicine to help fight against this illness. If you start to experience some of the known symptoms you should talk to your health provider to get a prescription.
The Community Emergency Response Team of Chesterfield, MO, reports that, “Even though serious West Nile Virus cases in humans are rare, it is important to minimize our exposure.”
“We can do this by eliminating opportunities for mosquitoes to breed and multiply, and protect ourselves by using repellents,” said Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, Saint Louis County Health Department Director.
You can reduce your risk of infection with WNV by staying indoors. But if you have to go outside, don’t forget to apply insect repellant. On the days where it’s not scorching hot, try to show less skin by wearing long sleeves and pants. And beware of the peak mosquito hours, which are in the evening and early morning according to the CDC.
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