Aug. 17, 2002 – With new cases of the West Nile virus reported on the U.S. mainland, V.I. public health officials are taking preventive measures and advising the public of things they can do to minimize the likelihood of an outbreak in the territory. It's essentially a two-point strategy: Reduce the mosquito population and avoid being bitten.
The Planning and Natural Resources and Health Departments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are cooperating in these efforts, according to a Government House press release.
The virus, transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, can infect people, horses, many types of birds and some other animals. Most people who become infected experience only mild symptoms or none at all. However, on rare occasions, infection can result in a severe and sometimes fatal illness known as West Nile encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. The risk of severe reaction is higher for persons age 50 and older.
Cases of the virus have been reported in the central and eastern two-thirds of the U.S. mainland this year. The press release noted that mosquitoes also transmit dengue fever, so preventive action is doubly important in the islands.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends as ways to avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes:
– Eliminate standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Empty any water in old tires lying around and dispose of them property.
– Keep the grass cut around residences and repair damaged screens and windows.
– Use mosquito netting over sleeping places and apply insect repellent before going to sleep. However, do not apply repellent to children under 3 years of age. A physician or pharmacist can suggest ointments and alternative repellents suitable for the young.
The release also cited the National Pesticide Information Center as saying mosquito repellents should contain the chemical compound commonly called DEET. However, the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs warns in an information box titled "How to use DEET products safely" that precautions should be taken in the use of substances containing the chemical compound.
Also, according to the release, "The use of mosquito magnets, introduced about a year ago, has been touted as effective in controlling the mosquito population."
The Health Department's Environmental Health Division is organizing a plan for mosquito control in conjunction with DPNR and the EPA. "Monitoring of the landfills and identification of known trouble spots for mosquitoes has been initiated," the release stated. "An announcement will be forthcoming on how to arrange for hand-fogging in specific areas."
For more information about West Nile virus and preventive steps you can take to avoid being bitten by virus-carrying mosquitoes, visit the CDC's Nile Virus Web site
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