From Alabama Public Health – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Dee W. Jones, D.V.M.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is investigating reports of West Nile virus (WNV) and other mosquito-borne diseases statewide. To date this year, nine WNV cases have been reported to the ADPH and one person has died. Several more reports are under investigation.
Approximately one in five people who are infected with WNV will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Fewer than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues); however, because the symptoms are more severe, these cases are more likely to be tested and reported.
When a person is infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment for these illnesses can substantially lower the risk of developing severe disease. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes after they feed on birds infected with the virus. The same mosquitoes can then infect mammals, particularly humans and horses. Like humans, horses can sometimes become seriously ill from these infections.
Although effective vaccination is available for horses, there are no commercially available medications for treatment or vaccines for prevention for humans. People with milder illnesses typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for several weeks. In more severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and nursing care. Anyone who has symptoms that cause concern should contact a health care provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites by following these recommendations:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 when going outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning, if available.
- Empty standing water from items outside homes, such as flowerpots, buckets and children’s pools.
“With many people enjoying outdoor activities, it is important that residents take every effort to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes,” Dr. Dee W. Jones, State Public Health Veterinarian, advises. “Keep your mosquito repellent with you at all times when you are working or participating in recreational activities outdoors.”
Visit http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/mosquito/avoid-the-bite.html for more information.