The Woodward News

September 3, 2013

Prevention is key when it comes to West Nile

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Most people who contract West Nile Virus show no symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic's online symptom search.

The few who do, usually have a mild form of the virus, which causes flu like symptoms and occasionally a rash, swollen lymph glands and eye pain, According to the Mayo Clinic's literature on the subject.

However, in other cases, those infected can develop encephalitis or swelling of the brain, which can be serious and even deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The trick is, to avoid the disease in the first place, says Oklahoma University Entomologist,  Dr. Justin Talley.

"If you are going to be out during dusk and dawn, you need to put some kind of repellent on you. I recommend Deet," Talley said.

Talley has been involved with the study of mosquitos and other insects and has spent some of his research in South America, where mosquitoes carry the deadly Yellow Fever.

"When I was in South America, I made sure I was wearing Deet," he said.

While there are some people who refuse to use the chemical Deet on themselves, Talley said the risks associated with contracting one of the many serious mosquito borne illnesses is far more risky than applying Deet.

"There are some natural compounds, such as Citronella and Geranium Oil," Talley says. "Those are okay, but don't work as well as Deet."

Mosquitos, especially the sneaky and not as noticeable Culex mosquito, can take a blood meal from a host and many times not even be noticed, he said.

"This mosquito primarily takes its blood meals from birds and birds are the reservoir for West Nile Virus," Talley said. "This mosquito is not like the large ones you see and notice when they bite you."

For that reason, health department officials are ramping up their warnings. They want to remind the public, who is more than likely going to spend their time outside over the last official summer holiday, to take mosquitos seriously.

In a pre-holiday email, county health departments reminded grillers, campers and anyone spending time outside over the weekend to plan on applying insect repellent and even wearing more substantial outerwear during the hours of dusk and dawn.

1. Dusk to dawn – Mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus are most active during these hours, so if you must go outside always take precautions.

2. Dress – Wear long sleeves with cuffs and long pants wherever mosquitoes are likely to be biting. Tuck your pants into your socks.

3. Deet – Use an insect repellant containing Deet on any exposed skin.

4. Drainage – Check regularly around your home for any water accumulation that could provide mosquito breeding grounds. For pools, hot tubs or water features, Health departments recommend that residents “cover, drain or maintain” these water sources to eliminate mosquito habitats.