Mosquitoes are a nuisance to humans and animals alike and have been known to transmit many diseases.  Although the lifespan of a mosquito is from one week to two months, this is time enough for them to transmit diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, and many others.

Let’s focus on the West Nile virus.  Over the past ten years there have been over thirty thousand cases of West Nile virus reported in the United States with over two hundred deaths.  West Nile is caused by arboviruses which are often transmitted vertically from a mother mosquito to her offspring.  Additionally, it is the female mosquitoes that seek out blood meals and typically transfer West Nile.  Cases of West Nile are typically found from June to September and are considered a seasonal epidemic.

Symptoms of West Nile virus typically surface in three to fourteen days.  Almost eighty percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito show no symptoms at all.  Twenty percent experience flu like symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes.  However, approximately .5% of infected people with West Nile virus face high fever, vision loss, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, coma, and paralysis for several weeks. Although there is not a specific treatment, many symptoms of the West Nile virus will pass on their own while others require hospitalization.  The hospital treatment usually consists of IV fluids, respiratory assistance, and nursing care.  Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against West Nile as it is a virus and no effective antiviral medications have been discovered.  Instead, treatment is supportive and deals with the symptoms associated with the central nervous system.  Prevention through personal protective measures and public health measures are key.  Personal protective measures include mosquito repellant, long pants, long sleeves, hat, and staying inside during early evening hours.  Public health measures typically involve spraying or misting mosquito repellants.

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