West Nile Virus and You
Is West Nile virus really as bad as everyone says? Do we really have to worry about it in Washington? The answer to both questions is yes—and an especially wet summer could mean even more mosquitoes than usual. The good news is there are easy things we can do to protect ourselves.
First, the facts are that West Nile virus:
- Is passed from infected mosquitoes to humans through mosquito bites.
- Can cause a potentially serious illness that affects the central nervous system.
- Is close to home—Washington saw its first human cases in 2006 and hundreds of people in Idaho have been infected.
- Can be very serious—even deadly—for some people, especially those over age 50.
- Often doesn’t cause symptoms worse than having the flu.
- Causes some people to develop severe illness, including a high fever, headache, neck stiffness, and/or disorientation.
Protecting yourself and your loved ones is easy:
- Use an effective repellent. DEET is safe and effective, as are other options like Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks outdoors whenever possible. Cover up especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Remove standing water around your home by keeping water fresh in pet dishes and birdbaths. Mosquitoes need only a small amount of water to breed.
- Make windows and doors “bug tight” with screens. Remind kids to close doors behind them. If mosquitoes are thick in your area, consider netting or screens around your deck.
West Nile virus and you:
Mosquito bites may seem like only a nuisance, but they can transmit disease. Avoiding mosquito bites will help you avoid West Nile virus infection. Protect yourself and others around you.
- Grandparents. Grandkids need your help staying protected. Help them apply effective repellent. Remember to dress them in long pants and sleeves if they’ll be outside at dawn and dusk.
- Outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk, you’re a target for mosquito bites. Wear long pants and sleeves during these times, and always use an effective repellent.
- Responsible neighbors. Remove standing water from your yard and encourage your neighbors to do so, too. Bird baths, tires, pet dishes, and buckets are common places water collects and mosquitoes breed.
- Friends. Share what you know with those you care about. Friends and family will benefit from this information too.
More information is available online (www.doh.wa.gov), or call 866-78-VIRUS.