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Tips to reduce West Nile risk

So far, two human cases of West Nile Virus disease are under investigation in Williamson County in 2012. Both cases were reported to the Williamson County and Cities Health District in July. One resulted in the death of an elderly woman (PDF). Previously, only five cases of WNV disease have been reported in Williamson County since 2002.

About West Nile Virus
About 1 out of 150 people bitten by WNV infected mosquitoes will develop a central nervous system disease (Encephalitis or Meningitis). Approximately 10 percent of people with this severe form of infection die from their illness and many survivors suffer from long-term nervous system problems.

Fortunately, most people bitten by infected mosquitoes develop West Nile Fever (WNF), the less severe form of the disease, and fight off the illness without any symptoms. WNV symptoms usually begin 3 to 15 days after being bitten and can include headache, high fever, rash, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. All age groups are vulnerable to WNV. However, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems face the highest risk of developing a severe or even fatal illness from a WNV infection.  

Reduce risk with the 4 D's

The 4 D's to protect yourself from the West Nile Virus are:

  1. Try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  2. Use a DEET insect repellent.
  3. Dress in long sleeves and pants when outside (particularly during dusk and dawn).
  4. Routinely drain standing water in items surrounding your home such as flower pots, pet dishes, and bird baths where mosquitoes can breed.

Eliminate mosquito habitats
Even if mosquito activity seems low; it only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit the virus. All residents should take immediate steps to eliminate the habitats where mosquitos live and breed:

  • Eliminate standing water in wheelbarrows, rain gutters, buckets, plastic covers, toys, or any other container where mosquitoes can breed
  • Empty and change the water in pet drinking bowls, bird baths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, and potted plant trays every 4 to 5 days to destroy potential mosquito habitats
  • Drain or fill temporary pools of water with dirt
  • Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating
  • Clean out rain gutters
  • Remove discarded tires or keep them dry and covered
  • Add an aerator to ponds and water gardens or add fish that will eat mosquitos and larvae
  • Remove debris (leaves, twigs, trash) from ditches and low areas
  • Fill in ruts and holes that collect standing water

Use mosquito repellent
Several safe and effective mosquito repellent options are also available:

  • Repellents containing DEET (up to 30 percent concentration) are still the most widely used and can provide long-lasting protection against mosquito bites.
  • Permethrin is a strong repellent and will kill mosquitoes that come into contact with treated clothing. Repellents containing permethrin are applied to clothing (not skin). Treated clothing can be worn after the repellent dries.
  • Effective alternatives to DEET or permethrin include repellents containing picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.

For maximum effectiveness and safety, all mosquito repellents should be used according to label directions.

Report potential habitats
To report potential mosquito habitats like stagnant water ponds, abandoned swimming pools, or discarded tires call: Williamson County & Cities Health District’s Environmental Health Services at (512) 943-3620 or Williamson County Constable, Precinct 3’s Environmental Enforcement Services at (512) 943-3317.

Other resources

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012

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