West Nile virus takes early bite out of 2013

Having already made an appearance to the tune of 31 cases and three deaths, West Nile virus remains a prominent national threat in the new year. And with peak contraction season set for August and September, several healthcare organizations are urging providers to inform their patients of proper prevention etiquette against the sickness with no clear-cut treatment regimen.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, 32 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections across species, with 35 percent of cases classified as advancing in the form of neuroinvasive disease and 65 percent presenting as non-neuroinvasive.

Locations specifics were presented as follows:

All information and data courtesy of the CDC. Presentation by PhysBizTech.

In 2012 — a year that recorded one of the deadliest West Nile occurrences in resent history — some 5,674 cases were confirmed, and 286 of those resulted in death. As there has yet to be a vaccine developed to combat the virus, preventative measures are the only guns that can be slung to fight such infection.

The CDC recommends that physicians remind patients of the following tactics heading into the pinnacle of transmission season:

  • Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
  • When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Don't apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
  • Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours. Use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Use your air conditioning, if you have it.
  • Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths on a regular basis.
  • Report dead birds to local authorities. Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area. By reporting dead birds to state and local health departments, you can play an important role in monitoring West Nile virus. State and local agencies have different policies for collecting and testing birds, so check with your state health department to find information about reporting dead birds in your area.
  • Support your local community mosquito control programs. Mosquito control activities are most often handled at the local level, such as through county or city government. The type of mosquito control methods used by a program depends on the time of year, the type of mosquitoes to be controlled, and the habitat structure. Methods can include elimination of mosquito larval habitats, application of insecticides to kill mosquito larvae, or spraying insecticides from trucks or aircraft to kill adult mosquitoes. Your local mosquito control program can provide information about the type of products being used in your area. Check with your local health department for more information. Contact information may be found in the blue (government) pages of the phone book.

More guidance for clinicians and providers on the topic of West Nile diagnosis and prevention can be found here.