West Nile Virus Infection on The Rise

By WBNG News

West Nile Virus Infection on The Rise

August 23, 2012 Updated Aug 23, 2012 at 5:03 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) According to a Tioga County Health Department news release issued Thursday:

Mosquitoes usually are considered a nuisance pest, but occasionally they can transmit viruses to people and some animals. These viruses can cause illness and even death. Two of these viruses that have been identified in the US are West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus outbreak is one track to be the worst in history; as it has now infected people in 43 states.  There have been 1,118 reported cases of persons infected with WNV and 41 deaths, including one in the Syracuse area.  EEE infections have not increased as significantly as WNV, but on an annual basis there are 12-17 cases reported nationwide. Five human cases have been reported in New York State: one each in 1971, 1983, 2009, 2010 and 2011, in which all were fatal.

WNV and EEE are both potentially serious illness that presents as a seasonal epidemic in North America from summer into fall. The risk of contracting either virus runs from June through September with peak activity late July to mid-August.  Approximately 80 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, meaning that you may be infected with the virus, but you may not show any symptoms. 

It is estimated, twenty percent of all people infected with either virus, will develop mild flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, body aches, nausea, etc.   Less than one percent of people infected will develop severe symptoms that affect the central nervous system. These include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma, or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). In rare cases, death can occur.

West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are most often spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.  Thus, the best way to avoid infection is to minimize exposure to mosquitoes. There is no specific treatment available for EEE or WNV. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. Patients are treated for their symptoms and provided supportive therapy.
People with mild cases of EEE and WNV usually recover completely. In cases of severe disease, supportive therapy may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids and treatment of other infections that develop. About one third of patients who develop EEE die and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage for the rest of their lives. If you experience any of the symptoms of a severe illness, contact your physician immediately: serious West Nile infections may warrant hospitalization.  

The best way to protect you from WNV and EEE is to remember the 5 D’s:

DEET – always make sure your insect repellent contains this compound and don’t forget to spray your skin AND your clothes.

Dress up – wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.

Dusk & Dawn – are the two times of day when mosquitoes are most active.  If you can avoid going out during these hours, do so.  If you need to be outside during these hours, follow the two D’s above.

Drainage – mosquitoes breed in standing water.  To prevent their spread, empty any standing water from around your home.  These include flower pots, watering cans, pet dishes, bird baths, tire swings and children’s wading pools, just to name a few.

If you would like more information about WNV or EEE, please call the Tioga County Health Department at 607-687-8565 or visit www.health.state.ny.us.