West Nile Virus Cases Confirmed in Maryland
It was reported yesterday (9-15-11) by the county's health department that a New Carrollton resident has Prince George's County's first reported human case of the West Nile Virus. Earlier in August, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced that a Baltimore area adult was the state's first confirmed case of West Nile Virus infection in 2011. As of September 1st, there were four known human cases in MD.
West Nile Virus is a disease which has been known to MD since 1999. At its peak in 2002, 10 people in the DIstrict, Maryland and Virginia died from the infection. Nationwide since 1999, 1,220 people have died from the virus; 25 were from the District, Maryland or Virginia.
Humans acquire the disease from bites by an infected mosquito. Symptoms of the disease are similar to influenza symptoms (headaches, nausea, fever, chills and general feelings of malaise); an individual may not realize that they are infected with WNV as a result. Symptoms usually develop 3-15 days after a bite.
Mosquitoes get the infection from feeding on the blood of infected birds. However, the virus generally takes a larger toll on bird populations than on humans. Several common North American bird species, especially members of the Corvidae family-the crows and jays-have experienced drastic population declines.
As with most diseases, WNV most greatly negatively impacts the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. People 50 years old or older have a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms that include muscle weakness, neck stiffness and paralysis. Death is rare.
Recent rains in our area from the hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee have left a large volume of water standing in yards. The soil is saturated and the water has no place to go. This is a perfect breeding site for the various species of mosquitoes in our area.
What Can You Do to Reduce Your Family's Risk to WNV?
First, inspect your house and yard thoroughly, looking for water catchment areas (Places that may hold stagnant water). Remove all water breeding sources for mosquitoes. These items can be large or small and natural (such as a tree hole) or manmade (a tire swing). Tip over bird baths, potted plant saucers, boats, old paint cans, tarps, trashcan lids, pet food bowls, toys, old tires and other areas that catch rain water and allow it to stagnate. Clean your gutters of debris, so that water flows freely and does not pool to promote mosquito growth. Mow your grass low and cut your shrubs back in your yard and especially up near your home. Grasses can hold water and adult mosquitoes will harbor in shrubs and dark areas near the home during the day. Limit your outdoor activity at night in your yard and outside. Most of our mosquitoes are nocturnal. There is one day biter, but the majority of adult female mosquitoes bite at night. When you must be outside and especially in dark areas of woods or at night, wear long sleeves and long pants to reduce your skin exposure to bites. Wear an insect repellant containing DEET sprayed on the outside of your clothing (not directly on your skin). Residential mosquito mitigation services are offered by Pest Management Professionals, such as American Pest.
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