From the Harford County Health Department:
Several weeks ago, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MD DHMH) reported its first confirmed case of symptomatic West Nile virus (WNV) infection in 2012. At about the same time, the National Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention released a media advisory announcing that some areas of the country have experienced greater numbers of WNV infections in humans, birds, and mosquitoes. Although Maryland is not among those states reporting increased WNV activity, the first confirmed human case in Maryland serves as an important reminder to local residents to take steps to prevent WNV infection.
“West Nile Virus continues to threaten the health of Maryland residents,” said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. “These findings remind us that there are basic actions we can all take to reduce our risk of getting infected.”
Most people are at low risk for disease. However, people 50 years of age and older have the highest risk of developing severe illness if infected, while those who spend a lot of time outdoors have a greater risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
“Prevention is key and there are actions individuals can take to reduce the risk of West Nile virus infection,” states Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly. “In addition to personal protection, prevention requires attention to your surroundings.” She encourages the public to “help reduce the number of mosquitoes in outdoor areas where they work or play by draining any sources of standing water, even small ones, where mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed.” Specifically, she recommends:
• At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, cans, or from any other place where you find standing water.
• Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out if necessary.
• Look for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
• Fix dripping faucets.
• Aerate ornamental pools and water gardens or stock with fish and use a circulating filter system
• Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
“Just as importantly,” continues Ms. Kelly, “there are measures people can take to effectively protect themselves from mosquito bites. These include avoiding areas of high mosquito activity as well as avoiding unnecessary outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when concerned about mosquito exposure and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions. Also be sure to place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you are outdoors with infants.”
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease that affects the nervous system. Although approximately eight out of ten of people infected with West Nile virus will not experience any symptoms or signs of illness at all, some people who develop illness may experience mild flu-like symptoms occasionally accompanied by a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks.
Fewer than 1% of persons infected with WNV develop more severe disease with symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and effects on the nervous system may be permanent.
In Maryland, West Nile Virus first appeared in 1999 in a crow in Baltimore City. The first human West Nile cases were reported in 2001 and since that time WNV activity has been found in humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses and/or other mammals throughout all jurisdictions, reaching a peak of 73 human cases and over 230 infected horses in 2003. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene collaborates with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources and with the US Department of Defense to monitor WNV and other arboviruses in humans, mosquitoes, and wildlife throughout the state.
For more information on the West Nile Virus virus, visit Harford County Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com, contact the Health Department at 410-612-1781, visit the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene at http://ideha.dhmh.md.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx or the National Centers for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.