In California, warm summer and fall nights and more outdoor activities often mean more mosquito bites. While mosquitoes leave an itchy reminder of their presence, there’s a more serious souvenir the bugs may leave behind: West Nile virus.
The majority of West Nile virus cases do not have symptoms, but 20 percent to 30 percent of people infected will have mild symptoms. Symptoms last for a few days and include fever, muscle aches, vomiting, joint pain and diarrhea. Only about one percent of cases are severe, known as neuroinvasive West Nile virus, and can cause seizures or meningitis.
Adults over 50 years of age and others with compromised immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients, are at a higher risk of a symptomatic West Nile virus infection.
When dealing with West Nile virus, prevention is your best bet. Fighting mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting this disease, along with others that mosquitoes can carry.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported increased West Nile virus activity across the state and reported the first human death from West Nile virus in August. The state is investigating other suspected cases in humans and has detected the virus in birds and mosquitoes in 30 California counties.
In 2015 the California Department of Health reported 860 human West Nile virus infections in California and 53 deaths. The CDPH advises everyone to practice the “Three Ds.”
1. DEET – Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 according to label instructions. Repellents keep mosquitoes from biting. DEET can be used safely on infants and children two months of age and older.
2. DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes bite in the early morning and evening, so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times. Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens with tears or holes.
3. DRAIN – Mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water. Eliminate or drain all sources of standing water around homes and properties, including buckets, old car tires, rain gutters, birdbaths and pet bowls. If a swimming pool is not being properly maintained, please contact the local mosquito and vector control agency.
If West Nile virus symptoms arise after a mosquito bite, be sure to tell your health-care provider.