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You Asked: Do I Need to Worry About West Nile Virus?

You're asking and I'm answering.

Dear Fit,
I am a magnet for mosquitoes and a friend said I better watch out for West Nile Virus. Is she right? Is this another disease I need to worry about?
—Bitten, Itchy, and Paranoid

I have been hearing about West Nile Virus (WNV) more and more. It is an illness spread by infected mosquitoes with most cases reported in the Summer and early Fall when infected mosquitoes are more likely to be actively biting us. About 80 percent of people infected with WNV will experience no symptoms (that's good news), but 20 percent will come down with mild symptoms that are similar to a cold — headache, fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes develop a skin rash. The symptoms usually pass after a few days but can linger for up to a few weeks. There are a few unlucky people – one out of every 150 – who develop more severe symptoms, like: high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness, convulsions, vision loss, numbness, and possibly coma.

If you've been bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms appear within three to 14 days. There's no specific treatment for WNV, as it usually runs its course and subsides on its own. If symptoms are serious, a trip to the hospital may be in order.

If you're wondering how to protect yourself from contracting WNV then


Unfortunately, the more time you spend outside, the more you are at risk for becoming a meal for an infected mosquito. You can't live inside forever though, so do what you can to avoid getting bit.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants in areas that are crowded with these buggers to prevent bites.
  • Use bug spray especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Look for ones that contain EPA-recommended ingredients such as DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 (ethyl ester). Be sure to read the bottle carefully and use them as directed.
  • Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, be sure to dump out any water that might have collected in flowerpots, buckets, or barrels. Also, clean out your pet's water dish daily and bird baths weekly.
  • Make sure the windows and doors where you live or work are either closed or have screens on them.

Fit's Tips: If you think you may be coming down with a serious case of WNV, contact your doctor to see what they recommend.


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