(Chester County Moms)

In the brief televised moments between campaign ads and political commentary, you may have heard the media and healthcare sources reporting on the recent upsurge in West Nile virus cases.

Here is the sound bite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, "The 693 cases reported thus far in 2012 is the highest number of West Nile virus disease cases reported to CDC through the second week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999." West Nile virus is a potentially serious illness. Experts believe it is established as a seasonal epidemic that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. Infected mosquitoes spread West Nile virus that can cause serious, life-altering disease.

And, here is the reassurance.
"The majority of people - about 80% - who contract West Nile virus will be just fine and not experience any effects at all. The remainder may feel flu-like symptoms, and a smaller number of people (1 out of 150 people) will go on to develop more serious complications," says Charlee Faucette, Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

The serious complications of West Nile virus affect the central nervous system.

"If you feel like you have the flu, we ask you to just be aware and pay attention," says Charlee. Most strains of the flu last about 2-7 days, where you may have a low-grade fever, achy muscles and loss of energy. We encourage you to contact your primary care provider if your flu extends past a normal length of time, and if you experience the following:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Convulsions
  • Vision loss

Again, contact your primary care physician if your flu develops into an illness affecting your central nervous system with any of the symptoms above.

Be Proactive.
Just like in sports, the best defense is a good offense. Here are a few ideas to avoid those darn mosquitoes.

  1. Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, so stay indoors during these hours.
  2. Wear an insect repellant if you plan to be outside. Select one that contains an EPA-registered active ingredient and follow the directions on the package. Do not spray directly onto your face and avoid your eyes, mouth and ears.
    • For children, apply the repellant to your own hands first and then put it on your child. You may not want to apply to a child's hands because of the likelihood they might put their hands in or near their mouths.
  3. When you are outside, cover up as much skin as possible to avoid exposure.
  4. Check your property to address any areas that can collect standing water, which is prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. Baby pools, tire swings, dog bowls, bird baths, gardening containers and rain barrels can easily fill with stagnant water.
  5. Keep mosquitoes at bay by checking your window screens for holes and closing the door behind you.

Get your swatters ready!
Knowing that some folks are more prone to being bitten than others, there are people who are more at risk of getting a severe illness than others. People over the age of 50, plus people who spend a great deal of time outside because of their jobs or hobbies are at greater risk.

In Pennsylvania, there were four diagnosed cases in July 2012, including one in Lancaster County and two in Delaware County. Even though Chester County has not had a confirmed case, it is good to be aware and prepared.

"And certainly, if you are one of those 'lucky' people that mosquitoes naturally LOVE, please take extra precaution to avoid them," says Charlee.

CDC.gov data: 2012 West Nile virus update, August 14

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