West Nile Virus has caused more sickness and death this year than any other season since the disease emerged in the U.S. a decade ago, according to The Centers for Disease Control.
As of Aug. 28, the CDC had confirmed 1,590 cases of human infections caused by mosquito-borne West Nile Virus nationwide, with 733 of those in Texas. In all, 65 people had died from the illness, including 30 in Texas, the hardest hit region in the nation, according to the CDC.
(The Town of Addison has issued its own recommendations for minimizing the threat. After weather hampered spraying efforts late last week, the Town was among a number of North Texas communities to undergo spraying for mosquitoes late August 19 and again on August 20.)
Despite scary numbers, the risk of contracting West Nile Virus from the bite of an infected mosquito remains low. About 80 percent of people bitten will be asymptomatic; up to 20 percent may have mild flu-like symptoms with fever, body aches, nausea and vomiting. Fewer than one percent will become severely ill, with possible symptoms including high fever, tremors, vision loss, paralysis and neurological damage.
Both the CDC and Texas health authorities are urging people to do all they can to protect themselves from the Culex mosquito that carries the disease (which cannot be transmitted by person-to-person contact).
Those measures should include covering up with long sleeves and pants, avoiding being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and getting rid of standing water in your yard to reduce mosquito breeding sites.
The CDC recommends using repellants with active ingredients approved by the EPA for skin or clothing:
• DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethly-3-methyl-benzamide)
• Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester )
• Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus* or PMD (Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus
• IR3535 (Chemical Name: 3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester)
Use these ingredients as recommended on the label, the CDC says, noting that DEET is classified as a “conventional repellent” and the other three, picaridin, PMD and IR3535 are classed as “biopesticide repellents” which are derived from natural materials.
Find more information about repellents from the EPA.
The CDC also says people can use more potent products, such as those containing permethrin on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear.
Permethrin, which is registered with the EPA for this use, is highly effective as an insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated laundering. The permethrin insecticide should be reapplied following the label instructions. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin.
The EPA has issued these precautions for using repellents safely:
• Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label.) Do not use repellents under clothing.
• Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
• Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face.
• Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. You may not want to apply to children’s hands.
• Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
• After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again. (This precaution may vary with different repellents—check the product label.)
• If you or your child get a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor because of the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.