West Nile Virus Safety Talk
Mosquitos are responsible for more human deaths every single year than any other insect or animal. According to Bill Gates’s website gatenotes.com, mosquitos are responsible for over 725,000 deaths a year. That number of deaths is more than the deaths caused by humans, dogs, snakes, roundworms, tapeworms, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, lions, wolves, and sharks combined on an annual basis.
Mosquitos carry a multitude of diseases that infect and kill humans. While many of the most devastating diseases affect other parts of the world, there are a number of diseases that affect the United States. West Nile Virus is one of the more common diseases that mosquitos can carry in the United States.
West Nile Virus Overview
The CDC describes West Nile Virus as “an arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes. West Nile virus can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)”.
There have been 51,801 cases of West Nile Virus in the US reported between 1999 and 2019 (CDC). Most people who are infected with the virus will not display any signs or symptoms. About 1 in 5 people develop symptoms that are similar to the flu for a short period of time after infection. There can be fatigue or weakness that lasts for weeks after the other symptoms subside. According to the CDC, less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).
Safeguards to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Mosquitos are found in every part of the United States. Every state except for Hawaii and Alaska has experienced cases of West Nile Virus. Some of the states with the highest reported number of cases over the last 15 years are Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas. People who work outside or who have hobbies that include the outdoors are most at risk of contracting West Nile. Some safeguards you can take to prevent mosquito bites are:
- Avoid areas or times of the day when mosquitos are most active when possible
- Use proper insect repellant to keep mosquitos away from you
- Wear long sleeves and pants to prevent easy access to your skin
- Indoor locations with air conditioning, doors, and window screens will have fewer mosquitos
- Remove standing water from around your home or work areas
While countries such as the United States and Canada do not have to worry about deadly diseases such as Malaria carried by mosquitos, there are other ones such as West Nile Virus that are a concern. Stay up to date on trends of mosquito-carried diseases. These viruses often go through cycles of being common in different areas.
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