West Nile in the Valley

By: Amy Kehm
By: Amy Kehm

Health officials say a 79-year-old Augusta County resident died this week, most likely from West Nile Virus. So far this year, the state has had 10 suspected human cases of the virus - down from last year's 29 cases. But far more birds and horses have tested positive for West Nile this year. And the season won't be over until a few major frosts.

Though sad, Central Shenandoah Health District Health Director says it confirms what the experts know.

"All this tells us is that what we've already known and tried to make certain that the public knows - in that, it's here. And it's here to stay. It will be here for our entire lifetimes," said Dr. Larsen.

Larsen also says it's not just West Nile Virus we're protecting ourselves from. It's all mosquito borne illnesses. Augusta County has also had two positive cases of Lacross Encephalitis this year.

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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. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.

  • 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; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

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


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