This summer has seen a record outbreak of West Nile virus, with the most cases reported in the United States since it was first detected here in 1999. Due to the scorching summer temperatures, the mosquito species responsible has proliferated at an astounding rate. The CDC reports that 1,118 people in forty-seven states have been infected, resulting in forty-one deaths.
Almost seventy-five percent of cases this year come from five states: South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas, with nearly half coming from Texas alone. Furthermore, CDC officials predict that infection rates will increase into next month.
Symptoms for most resemble the flu, but for around twenty percent of those affected, the condition includes fevers, body aches, vomiting, and skin rashes. Normally, less than one percent of people will develop the serious neuro-invasive diseases, such as encephalitis and meningitis. However, more than half of this year’s cases have been of this variety.
For older adults, this particularly virulent outbreak has serious consequences. Any senior with health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure has the highest risk of displaying severe symptoms if infected. In the five most plagued states, precautions must be taken, especially by those with compromised immune systems and senior citizens. Here are some tips that can drastically reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus:
· Mosquitoes are active mainly at dawn and dusk, so avoid being outside and exposed during those hours.
· Use repellent that contains DEET. Make sure to follow the directions and safety precautions as listed on the bottle.
· If you need to go outside, wear shirts with sleeves and long pants. You can spray your clothes with repellent as well.
· Any pools of standing water nearby should be avoided, as these are likely breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. If there are any such collections in or around your property, remove them immediately.
· Make sure all of your windows have screens installed and any holes should be patched.
If you live in one of the five states that are most affected, preventative measures and vigilance are vital. The probability of being infected is low, but for older adults with health conditions, it is necessary to be aware. So enjoy the rest of summer and please stay safe!