Summer May End, but Not the Menace of West Nile Virus

The end of summer heat doesn't mean the end of the mosquito menace, which carries with it the potential for the West Nile virus. This year, the disease has crept across most of the West Coast.

"Children seem to be at decreased risk for contracting the virus as compared to the elderly," says Dr. Elizabeth Race, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and an infectious diseases specialist. "Persons older than 70 years of age are advised to take mosquito precautions seriously and limit or avoid gardening activities at dawn and dusk."

West Nile is spread to humans by mosquitoes - not from person to person or from birds to people. Some individuals will develop a mild-to-moderate flu-like illness. Symptoms include fever, headache and body aches. In a few people, the virus can attack the nervous system, causing muscle weakness and swelling the brain, and possibly leading to paralysis or death. Fatalities are rare.

To protect yourself, Race recommends using insect repellants containing DEET. Also, get rid of all standing water (including those in containers), change water in pet dishes, wading pools and birdbaths daily, and cover trash containers.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center