West Nile Virus spreads rapidly

By Heather DiLalla
September 26, 2002

The West Nile Virus has rapidly swept through most parts of the United States within the past few years, including the area around Cabrini College. Twenty-nine dead birds in Delaware County have tested positive for the virus this summer. The first documented case was in 1999, and since then the public has had concern for their health and well being.

What the public was not aware of is that for the majority of the people who are infected with the West Nile virus, they will not have any type of serious illness. It is estimated that 20 percent of the people who become infected will develop West Nile fever: mild symptoms, including fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease.

Human illness from West Nile virus is rare, even in areas where the virus has been reported. In the vicinity of where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Even if the mosquito is infected, less than one percent of people who get bitten and become infected will get severely ill. Susan Fitzgerald, the college nurse emphasized that students here are as safe from West Nile Virus as anyone else. The chances of getting infected are slim, and those who do are for the most part elderly or very young children. In order to reduce the chance of becoming ill a person should apply insect repellent containing DEET when they are outdoors. When possible, wear long-sleeved clothes and long pants treated with repellents since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, which is when most mosquitoes are out. Also, limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay their eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your home.

“I think it is very important to take these extra precautions,” Patty Clara said. “Ever since I heard about the West Nile virus being here in the United States, I started wearing insect repellant or at least having it with me just in case,”

Being especially cautious is a good to do because even though getting the West Nile Virus is rare, it still does happen. It is important to seek help as soon as possible. “If you just spent the whole day crabbing down the shore, where many mosquitoes are, and you go home later that night feeling flu-like symptoms seek medical attention right away. No one should ignore symptoms” said Fitzgerald.

Readers may get more information from the Pennsylvania West Nile Virus site: http://www.westnile.state.pa.us/surv.htm.

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Heather DiLalla

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