(ACCOMAC, Va.)—The Eastern Shore Health District reminds residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites and to take measures to reduce mosquito populations on their property in order to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. While mosquito-borne illnesses can infect people in tropical climates year round, they are more often reported in our region in the late summer and early fall.
Humans, equines, and avians can be infected with West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis from the bite of infected mosquitoes. The time from the infected mosquito bite to the onset of illness (the incubation period) ranges between 2 and 14 days. There is no risk of infection by direct contact with ill people or animals, only through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
About 80% of people that are infected with West Nile Virus will not develop any symptoms. About 20% of people will develop a fever and may experience symptoms such as headaches, body aches, joint aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. An estimated 1 out of 150 infected people will develop a severe, neuroinvasive West Nile virus infection: fever, headache, stiff neck, disorientation or confusion, vision loss, seizures, paralysis, and even death. Individuals over 60 years of age are at an increased risk of developing a neuroinvasive infection and should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in humans can also range from mild flu-like illness to encephalitis, coma and death. One third of people who develop EEEV die and even survivors may have permanent neurologic damage.
To prevent mosquito bites from exposing you to these and other illnesses, wear long, loose, light colored clothing and apply mosquito repellents to exposed skin areas while outdoors. Products containing DEET and Picaridin typically provide the longest lasting protection. Other types of repellents may need to be applied more frequently, but also are effective. Permethrin is effective when used to treat clothing, screens or tents, but is not recommended to be used directly on the skin.
Equines and other animals can also be sprayed with mosquito repellent products that are suitable for them. Follow product instructions or consult your veterinarian for more information about protecting your animals. Vaccinated equines are also less likely die from mosquito-borne illness than unvaccinated equines. So make sure all of your equines, especially the young ones and the old ones are currently vaccinated. Consult your veterinarian if you are not sure.
The types of mosquitoes that transmit these specific diseases are often found near man-made water holding containers or polluted ditches. You can report ditches that do not drain to your county public works departments. You can also help keep the ditches draining more effectively by keeping them free of trash and litter in your neighborhood.
On your own property, eliminate standing water by doing the following:
- Keep gutters and down spouts clean.
- Eliminate standing water areas with better grading and/or drainage. Where this is a challenge, use mosquito dunks that are available at most hardware stores.
- Clean up all trash on your property, especially old tires.
- Keep your outdoor trash covered at all times.
- Empty water from flower trays, buckets, boat covers, tarps, flat roofs and all containers where water collects on your property after each rainfall.
- At least once per week clean out bird baths and wading pool.
- Eliminate standing water on tarps and flat roofs after each rain shower.
If you would like more information about mosquito-borne illness and prevention, visit the Virginia Department of Health website: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/bugs-human-health/.