It’s supposed to be a ‘mild’ year in Orange County for West Nile virus, but you should still take precautionsOct 1, 2019
Though the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District expects 2018 to be a “mild” year for West Nile virus, officials from the public health agency are nonetheless advising residents to do what they can to avoid getting bitten.
Orange County residents are encouraged to use mosquito spray; close windows and doors unless screened; and wear light-colored long shirts and pants as darker colors attract mosquitoes.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals by infected mosquitoes that feed on dead birds carrying the virus. According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of infected people will be asymptomatic, but some who contract the viral infection may experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, or joint and muscle aches.
In severe cases, the infection can affect neurological processes and result in high fever, neck stiffness, convulsions or muscle weakness and manifest in illnesses such as meningitis, said Dr. Bhanu Sud, an infectious disease specialist at Placentia Linda Hospital. In very rare cases, the virus can be fatal.
Young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are at the greatest risk. The incubation period for the disease is about three to 14 days, according to WHO.
“Wearing long sleeves and pants is better than shorts and short sleeves because it does provide some protection,” Sud said. “But the best is to use mosquito repellent approved by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) because there’s a lot of sprays on the market that don’t meet the levels of the CDC. Just like sunscreen, we have different concentrations. You have to make sure you have the right repellent when you use them.”
The CDC advises people to use repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov/insect-repellents) that contain one of the following ingredients to ensure protection:
- Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the U.S.)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
Sud added that most cases will not typically result in long-term symptoms — save for not being able to donate blood.
The CDC advises people who have had West Nile to avoid donating blood within 120 days of being diagnosed with the virus. Blood collection agencies have been required by law to screen for the virus since 2003 to minimize potential risk for patients contracting the virus through transfusions. Previous infection does not immunize people from contracting West Nile virus in the future.
Vector Control reported 38 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus and four deaths in Orange County in 2017. No cases have been reported this year.