The temperatures are warming up around the country and “summer” iis only a few weeks away. But the bugs are already coming out in full force and that includes those pesky mosquitos. In Texas with warmer temperatures than other areas, I am already seeing lots of mosquito bites, which is already causing some anxiety due to the risk of West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus (WNV) was first detected in the United States in 1999 and 2012 was the second worst outbreak of WNV disease (the worst was in 2003). WNV disease is a seasonal illness which typically is seen during summer and early fall, when mosquitos are at their peak.
In 2012 there were a total of 5,674 cases of WNV in the U.S. reported to CDC and there were 286 deaths. WNV has been reported in all 48 contiguous states as well as DC and Puerto Rico ( we can all head to Hawaii??). 75% of human WNV cases were reported from just 10 states, with Texas having the highest number. (1,868 cases and 89 deaths)
So....what do you need to know. Number 1: WNV as the name states is a VIRUS, which means there is not an antibiotic used to treat the infection!!
Secondly, about 80% of people (or 4/5) who are infected with WNV will NEVER show any symptoms of illness. Up to 20% of people who are infected will show symptoms of fever, headache, body aches , nausea or vomiting and some may also have swollen lymph nodes and a rash. These symptoms mimic many other viral illnesses so trying to decide if your child who has a fever and “the feel bads” has WNV or an enterovirus (like coxsackie) or and adenoviral infection is really not important.
What do you do for all of these viral infections but treat the symptoms, right? Give it a few days to see how your child is doing, treat the fever, keep them comfortable and hydrated and in a few days the illness will typically resolve and will be another unnamed nuisance viral illness.
About 1/150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness with neurological problems including seizures, meningitis, and encephalitis. Those are the people who are at greatest risk of requiring medical care, which includes hospitalization and life support, which is most often seen in older people and in people who have other medical problems.
The best thing to do is to keep yourself protected from mosquito bites by using bug spray, closing windows and doors, draining standing water and avoiding peak exposure during the early morning and evening hours. When you can wear long sleeves and long pants and socks to cover up from bites. For infants I would head out now to get some mosquito netting to cover strollers when a baby is outside (buy it now while available).
Lastly, don’t panic!!! Some parents are already telling me they aren’t letting their children go outside!? We have a long summer ahead and everyone needs fresh air and exercise. Start shopping for bug spray....i am looking for buy one get one free deals!
More on WNV as we get into the thick of the season although my zipcode in TX is already reporting WNV positive mosquitos.....maybe Hawaii?