The West Nile Virus is a virus that is most commonly spread to people through mosquito bites. The mosquito is infected with the virus when is feeds on infected birds. It was first identified in the United States in 1999, and has spread from east to west coast.
This summer, Chatham County Mosquito Control announced that there are mosquitos in Chatham County that have tested positive for West Nile Virus. They also stated that no known human infections have been reported at this time. Some birds, most notably Jays and Crows, are more susceptible to the effect of the West Nile Virus and may die. Dead Jays or Crowst may be a sign of the virus in the area. There is currently no evidence that humans can contract the disease from dead birds or bird bites, but birds are known to carry a variety of diseases so they should never be handled with bare hands.
What are the Symptoms of West Nile Virus?
Eighty percent of individuals infected with the virus may have no symptoms at all. Rarely, more serious symptoms may occur, so prevention is critical. For those who do get symptoms, one in five may experience symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Some may experience fatigue that can last for months. Less than 1% of those infected will experience severe symptoms such as encephalitis, inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissues. Symptoms can show up within a few days to a couple of weeks.
Can West Nile Virus Affect Animals?
When I lived in Idaho many years ago, West Nile Virus arrived and most of the disease seemed to be adversely affecting the horse population. It can cause a fatal encephalitis. Early signs of horse infection include the horse not walking, spasms and weakness in its hind legs, recumbency, seizures and eventually coma and death. If you have animals you fear may have been infected, please contact Savannah Animal Care. They are the only 24 hour veterinarian care in the Greater Savannah area. (912)335-1200. https://www.savannahanimalcare.com
What about Zika and Chikungunya?
There are a host of potential diseases that may be spread through mosquito bites including Zika, Chikungunya and a few other less common infections. It’s important to seek medical care if you are concerned about any unusual symptoms, especially after being outdoors and possibly being bit by a mosquito.
Prevention of West Nile Virus
There is no immunization to prevent infection with West Nile Virus. The best way to prevent infection is to use precautions to avoid being bit by mosquitos. Keeping one’s yard mowed, trimmed and standing water eliminated is a good place to start. It is also good to think about the “5 D’s” of mosquito bite prevention: 1) Drain – Empty any containers holding standing water – buckets, barrels, flower pots, and tarps -because they are breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes. 2) Dusk/Dawn – Avoid dusk and dawn activities during the summer when mosquitoes are most active. 3) Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin. 4) Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair. Fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house. 5) DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing the most effective repellent against mosquito bites known as DEET.
Chatham County claims to be currently spraying for mosquitos. There are also a number of natural mosquito control options that won’t cause harm to the community and animals like insecticides may. Options include certain plants and even wildlife. The important thing is to protect you and your loved ones from mosquito bites and potentially serious illnesses.
When to Seek Medical Care
Presence of West Nile Virus can be determined through a physical exam and laboratory tests. While most symptoms are mild, severe neurologic illness is possible. While treatment for West Nile Virus is mostly symptomatic, managing the symptoms is important. Like other viruses, antibiotics will not help in anyway.
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