GALVESTON — Recent rains might provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes which has Galveston County Health District officials reminding everyone that it also is West Nile virus season.
While the virus can be detected all year long, it is most prevalent in the warmer summer months.
“During this time of year when we tend to spend more time enjoying the outdoors, we must remember to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” said Dr. Mark Guidry, with the Galveston County Health Authority. “There are easy steps we can all take to help keep our families healthy and safe.”
Humans can contract West Nile virus from a mosquito bite. Infected mosquitoes get the virus from feeding on infected birds and mammals.
Because West Nile virus is now part of our environment, residents are encouraged to help eliminate mosquito breeding sites and prevent mosquito-borne diseases. Some of the things that can be done include:
• Use an EPA-approved insect repellent every time you go outside and follow the instructions on the label. EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and certain oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products.
• Regularly drain standing water, including water collected in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
• Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
• Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
The virus can cause mild to serious illness, and in some cases death. Symptoms of the milder form of illness can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms might last for several weeks.
Symptoms of the more serious form of the illness, West Nile neuroinvasive disease, can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
Up to 80 percent of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection.
People older than 50 and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus.
If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their health care provider.
There are no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus so far this year in Galveston County. There were no local cases reported in 2013, but there were 183 reported in the state, including 14 deaths.
“Our message is still the same,” Guidry said. “Be aware of West Nile virus and take precautions to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.”
For information, call 409-938- 2322.