We’ve all heard of the West Nile virus. We know that it is potentially deadly and that mosquitoes can transmit it to humans. With its warm, humid climate, swampland, and lush forests, the whole state of Louisiana turns into a mosquito breeding ground from July through September.
If you live here, you’re probably justifiably concerned about West Nile. With the right information, you can protect yourself and your family from illness and, in some cases, death. First of all, let’s cover what West Nile is and how to identify it.
What Is the West Nile Virus?
An arbovirus – meaning it’s carried by arthropods, like mosquitoes – West Nile was first diagnosed in North America in 1999, having previously been detected in the Middle East, Europe, India, Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia. It has since spread to the United States, and cases have been reported in all 48 of the contiguous lower states each year since its first detection.
So, unlike Ebola, which has not yet been detected outside of Africa, West Nile virus is a very real and present threat here in the United States, especially in states like Louisiana with all too healthy mosquito populations. So what is the likelihood that you’ll contract the virus if you’re bitten by a mosquito in Louisiana?
Over 30,000 cases of West Nile have been detected in Louisiana in the past 15 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five people infected with West Nile will develop symptoms. About 1% of those who develop symptoms will develop serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis or encephalitis.
So, though the chances that you’ll get severely ill or die from West Nile are low, percentage-wise, when you take into account how many potentially infected mosquitoes we have in Louisiana and how often you’re exposed, this is no idle threat.
Who Is at Risk?
Rapides, Lafayette, and Ouachita are the three parishes at the most risk for West Nile, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe if you don’t live in one of these areas. In 2012, cases were diagnosed all over the state, starting in June and progressing into November. In 2013, there were fewer cases over a shorter period of time, but the number was far from zero.
In addition to your location putting you at risk, you may be at a greater risk for contracting West Nile virus and suffering from mild to serious symptoms if you are over 50. The CDC also warns that people with diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and/or hypertension are more likely to develop symptoms when infected with West Nile. That said, anyone can get the virus, and no one should consider him or herself immune. Remember, there is no vaccine or cure for this disease as of yet.
Treating West Nile
The incubation period for West Nile is usually 2-6 days, though it can take as long as 14 days for symptoms to manifest. Symptoms include fever, headache, aching body and joints, diarrhea, vomiting, and rash. For mild symptoms, over the counter drugs can relieve pain until the virus runs its course. For severe symptoms (about 1%), the patient must be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Preventing West Nile
You can avoid contracting West Nile by avoiding mosquito bites. While this might seem extremely difficult in a state like Louisiana, if you’re vigilant, it’s quite possible. Bring insect repellant with you whenever you plan on being outside. Call a lawn care service about treating your yard.
Plant citronella, catnip, or rosemary in your garden; mosquitoes hate them! Also, look out for standing water in your yard. Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds, and you’ll be on your way to keeping West Nile away from you and your family.
For a free mosquito assessment and control estimate, call Fischer Environmental today, (800) 391-2565.
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