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WEST NILE VIRUS FACT SHEET:
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT
 YOUR FAMILY

WEST NILE VIRUS…WHAT IS IT?

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can cause encephalitis, a serious disease that can result in impairment and even death. In the fall of 1999 it was found in New York State. Although there are 150 kinds of mosquitoes in N.Y.S., most do not transmit the disease. However, the Culex Pipiens mosquito (the common house mosquito), is the one most associated with the West Nile virus. Note that encephalitis is a viral infection, so there is no specific treatment for the disease, other than to treat the symptoms.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water around the home, and adult mosquitoes prefer to live in tall grass and shrubbery. Any water that remains stagnant for 4 days or more offers an inviting breeding place for the Culex mosquito. Therefore, there are specific steps a homeowner can take to minimize the chance that the Culex mosquito will become established on the property.

PROTECTING THE HOME:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers;
  • Remove all discarded tires on your property. Used tires are the most common mosquito breeding site in the country;
  • Clean bird baths every 2 days, and drill holes in any recycling containers that are kept outdoors;
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall;
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, saunas, and hot tubs;
  • Drain water from swimming pool covers;
  • Use landscaping to make sure water drains from your home properly.

PROTECTING YOUR SELF

  • Make sure all doors and windows have screens in good repair;
  • Wear shoes and socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are more active;
  • Consider the use of mosquito repellant, using according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors;
  • If West Nile is discovered in your community, limit activities between dusk and dawn.

PROPER USE OF DEET

DEET-the chemical N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide- is the most commonly used insect repellant. However, it must be used with caution. While effective in combating mosquitoes, it is a powerful chemical which has been associated with a wide array of adverse reactions. The New York State Department of Health recommends the following precautions:

  • Store DEET containers out of the reach of children;
  • Do not let young children apply DEET to themselves;
  • Do NOT apply DEET directly to children- apply it to your hands and then put it on children with your hands. Use a product with less than 10% DEET on children;
  • Avoid children’s face and hands, and apply sparingly;
  • Do NOT apply indoors or directly to your face;
  • DEET may affect some synthetic fabrics and plastic;
  • Wash all treated skin and clothing after returning from outdoors.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF I HAVE SIGNS OF ENCEPHALITIS?

Unfortunately, sometimes viral infections like encephalitis do not give early warning signs. Mild cases may include a slight fever and\or headache. Severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever, head and body aches, and usually occur within 5 to 15 days after exposure. Those most susceptible to encephalitis are infants, the elderly and persons with damaged immune systems. Those experiencing symptoms should contact a physician and seek treatment immediately.

Note: All facts taken from NYSDOH literature and advisory notices. For more information call 270-2888

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