West Nile Virus is Back

West Nile Virus is Back

Yes! Warm weather is coming, and that means  more outdoor activity, and those pesky mosquitos.  Did you know that Chicago is the no.2 mosquito city in the United States?  According to this report from Orkin,  Atlanta is   no. 1, followed by Chicago.

But mosquitos are more than minor irritations.  They can be  disease vectors. Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile Virus are all mosquito-borne illnesses.

The first positive test batch for West Nile Virus in Illinois this year was  recently reported in St. Clair County.

West Nile Virus was first discovered in the West Nile region of Uganda.  It has been found in the United States since 1999.

West Nile Virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitos.

Mosquitos become infected when they feed on infected birds. Birds get infected by infected mosquitos. Crows and bluejays are particularly vulnerable.  In recent years, crow populations have been decimated, but they are coming back.

Infected mosquitos can then spread the virus to humans and other animals. Horses are especially vulnerable.

There is a vaccine for horses.

There is no vaccine for people.

Most people will experience NO symptoms.

The most common complaint is minor flu-like symptoms. This can last for weeks.

West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

While these cases are rare, serious illness can occur in people of any age.  However, older people (over 60) are at the greatest risk for severe disease.

People with compromised immune systems, and certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.

Since there is no vaccine for people, prevention is your best protection.   Suggestions include wearing long sleeves and light colors, and limiting  activity at dusk and dawn, when most mosquitos are most active.  Since we also want to enjoy summer evenings, this  presents a problem.

The CDC  recommends using an EPA-certified mosquito repellant if you’re going to be outdoors. Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol  provide longer-lasting protection.

If you would prefer a DEET-free alternative  (as I do) my fellow ChicagoNow Blogger, Yoga Mom, has posted this recipe for  a natural, chemical-free mosquito repellant.

Additionally, there are plants you can grow that are natural mosquito repellants. Lemon balm, citronella and mint are all easy to grow, and  appealing to people, but not mosquitos.

There are also all kinds of high-tech wearable repellants.  I have even seen these stretchy bracelets  that are infused with citronella and lemongrass, and I am thinking of giving  them a try.

Mosquito season is just starting. I’ll have more in a future post.




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Filed under: seasons, weather

Tags: mosquitos, West Nile Virus


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  • Thanks for a very useful set of warnings.

  • Thanks so much for reading!

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