NEWS | Sept. 5, 2012

Important West Nile Virus information

By Naval Health Clinic Charleston

Recent instances of West Nile Virus infections across the United States, and more significantly in the Charleston area, have demanded an increase in mosquito surveillance and general information awareness for the public.

The most important thing to know about West Nile Virus is how to prevent it. Individuals should make sure an Environmental Protection Agency approved insect repellent is being used at all times. Products containing DEET, Picaridin and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil are advised.

The highest activity for mosquitoes occurs at dawn and dusk. Using repellent and covering exposed skin are crucial at these times. All windows and doors need to have screens for shielding purposes. All locations where stagnant water is present need to be periodically checked to deter mosquito breeding.

When prevention fails, individuals should know the symptoms of West Nile Virus. Statistics show that four out of five individuals who are infected with the West Nile Virus show no initial symptoms of the virus. Symptoms that may be evident include fever, headache and body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks. These common symptoms have an occurrence in up to 20 percent of people infected with the virus.

Severe cases will involve illnesses such as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Approximately one in 150 individuals demonstrates these dangerous symptoms; additionally, any individual over the age of 50 is at a higher risk of developing serious problems. Typically symptoms will begin between three to 14 days from the date of initial infection.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a website devoted to the information and awareness concerning vital aspects of the West Nile Virus. To learn more, or to ensure you and your family are protected, visit www.cdc.gov. You can also call the Naval Health Clinic Charleston Preventive Medicine Department at 794-6560.