Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus

May 2004
Shelley Humphries - Glades County Extension, 4-H Coordinator/Livestock/Horticulture Agent

They're Back!!! It's mosquito time again, and we all know that mosquitoes are carriers of the West Nile Virus. What is West Nile Virus? It is a virus (an ultramicroscopic infectious agent, a.k.a. "a bug") of the Flaviviridae family found in both tropical and temperate regions. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to a form of encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in rare cases. It mainly infects birds, but can also infect horses, humans, and some other mammals. West Nile Virus is transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes.

The West Nile Virus cannot be transmitted directly from human to human or animal to human but only through the bite of a mosquito. Although there is no vaccine for humans at this time, a vaccine for horses does exit. Those who become infected with the virus usually show no symptoms; however, symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, body aches and pains, and a mild skin rash. In some cases inflammation of the brain can lead to death. The death rate of humans who become infected is about ten percent. Once infected, the human body will develop immunity against future infections.

Presently, the best practice is to control mosquitoes and protect yourself from being bitten. If you have to go out at night wear protective clothing, long pants and sleeves, socks and closed toed shoes. Don't forget to spray yourself with a mosquito repellent. You should keep young children away from areas that attract mosquitoes and their larvae.

You can protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by following these precautions:

  • Avoid outside activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens.
  • Eliminate standing water.
  • Help neighbors eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
  • Encourage local officials to treat small ponds with larvacide and consider stocking larger ponds with larva eating fish as an additional control.
  • Ensure that organizers of summertime activities for youth and the elderly - such a summer camps, park and recreation centers, and senior centers are protectively using pest control strategies and products.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
  • Learn about your community's mosquito control program.

Last year alone there were more than 3,000 cases of West Nile Virus reported. Please use these precautions and read the latest publications on West Nile Virus. As the rainy season is fast approaching it is important that we stay on top of mosquito control to make the summertime more enjoyable and remain healthy and happy!

For more information on West Nile Virus and its effects visit one of these sites:

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