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Precautionary measures designed to reduce West Nile virus infection risks

USU Extension entomologist

West Nile virus was detected in North America in 1999 and in Utah in 2003.

West Nile is transmitted by female mosquitoes. Horses, humans and some birds, particularly crows, ravens and jays, are sensitive to developing virus symptoms.

Approximately 80 percent of the humans infected with West Nile never show symptoms. Most people's immune systems are healthy enough to fight infections.

Up to 20 percent of the individuals bitten will develop West Nile fever and display symptoms similar to the flu. Symptoms last a few days and are treated with fluids and rest.

But about one in 150 victims infected with the virus will become seriously ill and require hospitalization. People older than 50 years of age or individuals with compromised immune systems are at higher risk to develop more serious complications from West Nile virus.

Carbon County residents are urged to consider several precautionary measures designed to prevent infections. The recommended measures include:

•Wearing appropriate clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and pants make it more difficult for mosquitoes to pierce skin and transmit disease while feeding.

•Staying indoors during peak times for mosquito flight activity. Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most actively feeding from dusk through dawn.

•Protecting family members with repellent. DEET is an effective mosquito repellent available in several concentrations. Products containing DEET have a relatively low risk to humans and the environment.

DEET can be applied to the skin, but should not be applied directly to the face.

Children should use DEET sparingly because of eye and mucous irritations.

Picaridin is an alternative for people with sensitivities to DEET-based products. It is effective, almost odorless and can be applied directly to the skin.

Permethrin is a highly effective repellent, and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing, shoes and camping gear.

Oil of eucalyptus is a plant-based repellent and is nearly as effective as applying low concentrations of DEET.

•Eliminating standing water. Because eggs are deposited in standing water, reducing breeding sites will decrease the number of adult mosquitoes.

People are urged to minimize pooling water in ditches and other low spots in the yard.

Keeping containers clean and dry. People should empty and clean watering cans, flower pots or other potential sources of standing water when the items are not in use.

Drilling holes in containers also allows drainage. Garbage cans and recycling bins can store rain water for days.

•Maintaining pools with fresh water. Examples include fish or ornamental ponds, bird baths and pet bowls.

•Properly chlorinating swimming pools and hot tubs discourage female mosquitoes from laying eggs.

•Taking steps to prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.

In addition, Carbon County residents should shut windows and doors, repair torn screens, insulate window fans or air conditioners and close fireplaces when not in use.

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