West Nile Virus
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The West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which may circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. Infected mosquitoes transmit the virus to humans and animals while biting to take blood.
In areas where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Even if the mosquito is infected, less than 1% of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances you will become severely ill from any one-mosquito bite are extremely small. West Nile Virus IS NOT transmitted from person-to-person. This means that you cannot get the virus from touching or kissing a person who has the disease, or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease.
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With guidance from a variety of public health officials, the City of Mercer Island monitored mosquito populations and provided educational materials about the West Nile Virus.
West Nile Virus Monitoring Program
The City's monitoring work, which was done with the assistance of Eden Advanced Pest Technologies, began in late April at 20 sites around the Island. In general, the monitoring program found relatively low numbers of mosquitos.
A primary goal of the monitoring effort was to provide solid data for decisions that may need to be made in the future. The City's West Nile Virus (WNV)response continues to take into consideration what is appropriate for the community and in proportion to the actual threat posed by the virus. Any attempts to control mosquitoes will be based on Best Management Practices and the concepts of Integrated Pest Management. The use of chemicals that carry even minimal risk of environmental damage will continue to be considered only as a last resort.
West Nile has emerged in recent years across North America, presenting a threat to public, equine and animal health. During fall 2002, WNV was first detected in Washinton state. Of a total of 4 positive cases in animals, 3 were in western Washington. Although no human cases of WNV had been identified as of September 2003, they are expected in the near future.
Human illness from West Nile Virus is rare, even in areas where the virus has been reported. The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low.
West Nile Virus Prevention Tips
You can further reduce your chances of becoming ill by protecting yourself from mosquito bites. The following tips will help you avoid mosquito bites:
Information provided by the Center’s for Disease Control (CDC) Washington Military Department, Emergency Management Division, 2002
- Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening.
- Wear long-sleeved clothes and long pants treated with repellent, when you are outdoors.
- Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.
- Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent will contain 35% DEET. DEET in high concentrations (greater than 35%) provides no additional protection.
- Avoid applying repellent to children less than 2 years old. Use care in applying repellent to small children, and don’t put repellent on their hands because it may get into their mouth or eyes and cause irritation.
- Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use, as printed on the product.
- Install screens and repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
- NOTE: Vitamin B and “ultrasonic” devices are NOT effective in preventing mosquito bites.
- Limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. This can be done by eliminating standing water sources around your home.
Preparing for West Nile and the Environment
The Department of Ecology says you can protect your family without harming the environment.
Empty anything that holds standing water - old tires, buckets, plastic covers, and toys. Drain and clean birdbaths once a week. Make sure gutters are working properly, and fix leaky outdoor faucets.
Whatever you do, don't drain wetlands. Wetlands are home to natural predators such as birds and frogs that eat mosquitoes.
And remember, using any pesticides in or near lakes, rivers, and streams requires a permit and special training.
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