Prepare to take on the West Nile virus

The good news is that we don’t have fire ants, the type that
make people in places like Texas swell up like balloons after
they’ve been attacked. The bad news is that the West Nile virus is
here. As someone on the editorial board quipped,

Mosquitos are proof that God made mistakes.

So, perhaps, are editorial boards … but back to West Nile.
The good news is that we don’t have fire ants, the type that make people in places like Texas swell up like balloons after they’ve been attacked. The bad news is that the West Nile virus is here. As someone on the editorial board quipped, “Mosquitos are proof that God made mistakes.” So, perhaps, are editorial boards … but back to West Nile.

It’s a scary proposition to be sure – a mosquito bite turning into a potentially deadly disease – but we have to keep things in perspective: Only one West Nile related case was confirmed in Santa Clara County last year, and most WNV infected humans have no symptoms. A small number develop mild symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands, while less than 1 percent of those infected develop more severe illness that includes meningitis (inflammation of one of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis. The symptoms of these illnesses can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

West Nile watchers are expecting a larger outbreak in Santa Clara County this year, and for that potential reality we should become prepared. Besides buying stock in companies who make those backyard mosquito-killing devices, there are a few things residents can and should do. Standing water, whether it’s an old tire, a garden fountain or a hole in a tree filled with rain water, is where the battle should be fought.

This requires a bit of personal thought and time investment. Don’t let water just stand around without being changed. Empty and re-fill pet dishes, check your property for standing water – a tarp on a wood pile, for example. If you have a hot tub keep the lid on tight and don’t allow water to stand on the cover. If you have a pond or a watering trough for animals, buy the proper amount of mosquitofish and stock the “lake” so to speak. These fish are also available through Santa Clara County Vector Control. Rain gutters can be a problem, too, so make sure those are clean and free flowing.

Other prevention actions can include staying inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active and wearing

long-sleeve shirts and long pants or applying mosquito repellent.

If you find a dead bird that may be a carrier (no obvious sign of why it died) report it

by calling 408-792-5010 or 1-800-675-1155. There’s more information at www.sccvector.org and http://westnile.ca.gov.

A little prevention will go a long way toward warding off problems with WNV. Spring is just about here, and we don’t want a bunch of mosquitos causing people to worry, so do your part and drain that standing water.

West Nile facts

In order to understand West Nile, here’s a little background from the USGS:

• West Nile virus was first isolated in 1937. It has caused asymptomatic infection and fevers in humans in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. Human and animal infections were not documented in the Western Hemisphere until the 1999 outbreak in the New York City. Since then, the disease has spread across the United States. In 2003, WNV activity occurred in 46 states and caused illness in more than 9,800 people.

• WNV is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds that have high levels of WNV in their blood.

• WNV is not contagious from person to person.

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