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How to Protect Against West Nile Virus

How to Protect Against West Nile When Exercising Outdoors

Mosquito bites don't just cause an annoying itch — they can also be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have already reported 693 cases of the West Nile virus (WNV), with 26 of those cases resulting in death. In recent news, the mayor of Dallas declared a state of emergency to combat the spread of the mosquito-borne infection since there have been three times the amount of reported cases since 2003.

The good news is that less than one percent of those infected with WNV will come down with a life-threatening illness, but 20 percent will suffer from a fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash.

To control mosquito populations, Dallas has decided to do aerial spraying, just like neighborhoods in New York City and Sacramento, CA. Here are ways you can protect yourself since Texas isn't the only state at risk and many people are spending time outdoors exercising in the warmer Summer weather,

  • Use bug spray: I'm not one to support slathering chemicals on your body, but natural mosquito repellents aren't the most effective. Just as with ticks that transmit Lyme disease, it's best to arm yourself with a product that contains DEET. Use a low percentage (five to 15) and spray it on your clothes, shoes, and hat to avoid contact with your skin. If you're working out in a particularly buggy area, do spray it on your skin, but shower immediately after your workout.
  • Slip on the sleeves: If you want extra protection, wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts, pants, and high socks. This is perfect when exercising in the woods where it tends to be cooler yet superbuggy.
  • Avoid infected areas: Mosquitoes are a fan of shady, bushy, and moist areas that have standing water, since that's where they lay their eggs. Try to avoid working out in marshy woods or near lakes. Also be mindful of certain times of the day when bugs are more prevalent, such as in the cooler early morning or late at night.
  • Use the power of air: Mosquitoes can't handle a little wind, so walk or jog in breezier areas or make your own breeze by biking or Rollerblading.

People typically develop symptoms from WNV within three to 14 days of being bitten. If you're suffering from mild symptoms, it's not necessary to see your doctor, as the illness will improve on its own. However, if you are pregnant or nursing, or have serious symptoms such as intense headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately.

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