From the Harford County Health Department:
Last week, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reported the first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus in 2015 involving an adult in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Because reports of positive WNV cases usually begin around this time of year and can extend into middle to late October, the Harford County Health Department cautions the public to take appropriate measures to reduce their risk of infection.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection that can result from the bite of an infected mosquito. Although most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, about 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a mild form of the illness referred to as West Nile fever. Symptoms may last a few days or as long as several weeks.
Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness 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.
Although most people are at low risk for disease, people 50 years of age and older have the highest risk of
developing severe illness if infected. Also, people 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 mosquito-borne
infection,” states Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly. “Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats
when concerned about mosquito exposure, be sure to place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you
are outdoors with infants and use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions. Avoid
areas of high mosquito activity as well as engaging unnecessarily in outdoor activities at dawn and dusk
when mosquitoes are most active.”
“Just as importantly,” continues Ms. 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 outdoor 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.
DHMH provides weekly updates of WNV detected in humans, mosquitoes and horses in Maryland on its website. For each case, DHMH indicates whether the infected individual is a child or an adult and the region of the state where the individual resides. The reports will be available each Wednesday at http://goo.gl/adHARJ.
In addition to the DHMH website, here are several sources for more information on the West Nile virus. Visit the Harford County Health Department website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com, contact the Health Department at 410-612-1781, or visit the National Centers for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/westnile.