West Nile Virus Is Easily Prevented, Doctor Says
The West Nile virus has been alive in Los Angeles County for more than a decade and emerges as the summer heats up. One Santa Clarita doctor wants to inform residents how they can steer clear of contracting the disease.
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“Unfortunately, there is no treatment for West Nile infection, and at present there is no vaccine to prevent this infection,” said family practitioner Dr. Michael Pin, “But there are many inexpensive things you can do to make sure that your family has a reduced risk of this infection.”
West Nile is found in birds and mosquitoes, and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that bite infected birds. Most people bitten by mosquitoes do not become ill, but a small proportion do.
“Mosquitoes are like vampires - they bite when the sun goes down,” said Pin, “So apply your repellent if you are outside one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn.”
Victims suffer symptoms including fever, headache, rash, muscle weakness and nausea and vomiting. A smaller proportion may develop neurological symptoms such as limb paralysis, tremors and altered mental status.
Since 2008, 438 people were infected with the virus in Los Angeles County, and three people died, but the potential for much greater infection and death is there.
Last year in northern Texas, an estimated 80,000 people contracted the virus, 300 of those people became seriously ill and 19 died. That surge followed an unseasonably warm Texas winter where mosquitoes failed to die off, which increased their summer populations.
With global climate change, warmer, wetter winters appear to be more common across the country.
This year, West Nile has been found locally in mosquitoes and birds from the South Bay to the Antelope Valley. Last year, there were three findings in Santa Clarita, in the Saugus area, according to county records.
While the odds are slim of falling ill to West Nile, the prevention is simple and definitely worthwhile.
“If you’re traveling this summer, don’t forget to pack repellent for your entire family," Pin said, "Adults and teens should use 20-30 percent DEET, lower concentrations are for kids.”
He also suggests making sure windows and door screens are in good order, clearing any standing water such as in pools and adding a safe pesticide to neglected swimming pools.
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