West Nile 101

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While the chill of fall has been in the air lately, Wood County Commissioners say they're still getting concerns from residents about the effects of West Nile Virus.

"(A previous speaker) came down with a cold, and he was sure it was West Nile," says commissioner Rick Modesitt. "I think there's a lot of fear in the community, especially among our older people."

The Wood County Health Department says it's the first freeze, not a cold snap, which kills off mosquitoes for good at the end of a season. That, along with personal prevention measures, is what health officials believe is the best way of warding off the disease.

According to Gary Hamilton, the health department's executive director, "West Virginia is approaching it from a standpoint that we need to develop programs for education, and also monitoring, surveillance and testing."

Some communities this summer did spraying as a way of warding off disease-carrying mosquitoes. But Wood County Health officials say that's not always effective.

"Spraying is very tricky," Hamilton says. "It has to be done at times when the weather and atmospheric conditions are perfect; when we truly have a hot spot. You can randomly spray all over the place and it doesn't accomplish much."

Meanwhile, health officials are still awaiting word from the Centers for Disease Control on the definite cause of death of a 78-year-old Parkersburg man last month.

Hamilton says, however, that all other tests conducted on the man indicate West Nile was the cause of his death.

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West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report