Common Myths About West Nile Virus

Although there are a few cases of West Nile disease in the United States (with about 3,000 reported cases in 2005, including 119 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), you and your family should not take this deadly disease for granted especially during mosquito season.  Here are several common myths associated with this disease and the facts that truly matter.

There is not much we can do about West Nile virus

Although the infection caused by West Nile virus could leave you helpless because there is currently no treatment for it, there is a lot that you can do to reduce your chance of getting infected.  For one, you and your family should make a habit of using insect repellent with DEET when outdoors.  Also, have your children avoid the outdoors between dusk and dawn, when virus-carrying mosquitoes are most active.

Make sure that you get rid of unused containers, change water in bird baths, empty water from flower pots, and maintain clean gutters at least once a week.  This is to prevent the instances of standing water, which is a favorite breeding place among mosquitoes.  You also need to keep your window and door screens in good condition.

Kids are more vulnerable from getting infected with West Nile virus

In fact, people over 50 years of age are at the highest risk for developing severe infections cause by West Nile virus.  Also, most of the deaths during the WNV outbreak in 2002 were among people over 50 years old.  Meanwhile, there are relatively few children who have been reported with severe cases of West Nile viral infection.  Nevertheless, it is always a good idea for your children to avoid mosquito bites.

People with poor health are more susceptible from getting infected with West Nile virus

Severe cases of West Nile virus infections have affected even healthy, active older adults who spend time working and exercising outdoors.  However, this does not mean older adults should remain indoors.  It is important that they use insect repellent whenever they go outside.

Insect repellents with DEET are not safe

Repellents containing DEET are very safe for humans when used according to directions.  Extensive tests have been conducted to ensure that DEET is safe for adults and children, as well as determining the short-term and long-term effects on health.  Take note that different products have different strengths, depending on the percentage of DEET available.  The longer the protection you need, a higher percentage of DEET is needed.

If my area has a mosquito control program, I do not have to worry about West Nile virus

Mosquito control activities do not eliminate every mosquito, which is why it is very important to protect yourself and your family. 

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