Mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus Still Affect the United States – and the World

27. Epidemiology In 1937, the first instance of West Nile fever was found in Uganda. A woman at Omogo, located in the West Nile district, reported… Trista - August 28, 2019
Credit: Los Angeles County Medical Association

27. Epidemiology

In 1937, the first instance of West Nile fever was found in Uganda. A woman at Omogo, located in the West Nile district, reported feeling feverish while researchers were investigating the yellow fever virus. In 1939, areas of the Congo, Sudan, and the White Nile region tested positive for West Nile virus.

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It was discovered in Egypt in 1942 and India in 1953. A 1950 survey in Egypt found that 90 percent of Egyptians over the age of 40 had West Nile virus antibodies. West Nile virus was noted in horses for the first time in France and Egypt in the 1960s. It was then that it was recognized in Australia, southern Europe, and southwest Asia.

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28. Weather Associated with the West Nile Virus

Experts have found that an area that experiences a severe drought will have a higher number of West Nile virus cases in the next year. The population of fish in a body of water will decrease during a drought, removing predators that feed on mosquito eggs. This occurrence will allow more mosquitoes to breed and lay eggs on water.

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Another risk for an uptick in West Nile virus is hotter weather. Areas where the climate has become warmer and more humid will see an increase in the mosquito population. Higher temperatures also provide a shorter replication time for the virus. Additionally, it will cause an increased viral load in mosquitoes and birds.

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29. Researching the West Nile Virus

Several vaccines have been developed for West Nile virus, but research is still ongoing. There is one that was designed for horses and is given to birds at some zoos across the globe. Scientists do not know the effectiveness of this vaccine yet. There is an antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV, which shows promise against encephalitis caused by West Nile virus.

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What experts do know is that the rate of transmission to cats and dogs is highly unlikely. They show virtually no signs of infection. There have not been any reported cases of dog to human or cat to human transmission.

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30. Using Insect Repellent

Look for products that are EPA-rated; this means that they’ve proven to be effective and safe to use. Look for products that have picaridin, para-menthane-diol, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. It would be best if you exercise caution when using insect repellent around babies and young children, as they’re more sensitive to these kinds of chemicals. Do not use repellent on babies who are younger than two months old. To combat mosquitoes, dress them in long clothing that covers their arms and legs. Mosquito netting can also be used on strollers to keep them safe.

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Repellents should also not be used anywhere on a child’s face or irritated skin. To be safe, spray repellent on your hands first and then apply it to the child’s face. If you’re experiencing a hot summer day, it’s a good idea to put your sunscreen on first and then apply your insect repellent. That way, you’re not causing the sunscreen to run off your body and minimize your protection against the sun.

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31. Wearing Long Sleeves

In addition to wearing repellent, you can also wear long sleeves and pants to help you prevent getting bitten. To strengthen your chances, try treating your clothing with permethrin. This is a chemical that is designed to repel mosquitoes if they get close to it.

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When applied to clothe, it provides protection even after multiple washes. Always follow the product instructions to ensure that you’re applying it correctly. Never use permethrin directly on your skin. Wearing long sleeves when you’re outdoors not only protects you from bug bites, it can also protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

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32. Controlling Mosquitoes Inside and Outside

To keep the mosquitoes outside, use screening on your windows and doors so that you can still allow fresh air in without letting the bugs in as well. If possible, use air conditioning to help circulate air around your home instead.

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However, what about outside? If you want to spend some time in your yard, you need to kill the mosquitos before they become a problem. You can do this by eliminating any source of standing water. This is because mosquitoes lay their eggs in the water, which hatch into larvae. It would help if you emptied any buckets, tires, birdbaths, or flower pots that may have water inside them and leave them in the sun to dry completely.

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33. Utilizing a Larvicide

Although removing standing water will both get rid of mosquitoes that want to lay eggs as well as kill of the larvae, it may not be possible in some cases. When that happens, you can use a larvicide to kill off the larvae. This can come in the form of “mosquito dunks,” which are rings or tablets you can place in standing water to kill the larvae off.

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There are many different types of larvicide to choose from. Biological agents use natural bacteria to attack the larvae from inside their digestive tract. Chemical agents like methoprene are designed to stop the growth cycle of the larvae and prevent them from becoming adults. Occasionally, people use sound energy transmitted into the water. This technique instantly ruptures a larva’s bladder, leading to their death.

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34. Using Adulticides

These are more than just mosquito repellents; these are the means to kill adult mosquitoes outright. These chemicals will cut back on mosquito populations, making it more difficult for them to breed as well as reducing the chances that people can get sick. These can be found in local outdoor stores so that you can apply it around your home.

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The best place to spray an adulticide is under plants and on the undersides of tree and bush leaves. This is because mosquitoes like to rest under plants. You can also spray it on decks, porches, eaves, and in shady, moist areas. Inside your home, spray adulticides in your laundry room, behind furniture, in closets, and under sinks.

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35. Staying Safe While Overseas

Depending on where you’re going, you may be heading right into Mosquito City for your vacation spot. Do a little research before you get there to see where you’ll be spending the majority of your time. Choose a hotel that has screens on the windows and doors.

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If you can, bring mosquito netting with you to drape over your bed or over the windows to minimize your chances of being bitten. Don’t forget to pack bug spray! Having mosquito repellent on hand at all times will help you keep them from not only buzzing around and annoying you, but also from biting. You can also find special bracelets designed for repelling unwanted bugs.

West Nile virus | crows and jays. Image via The New York Times

36. Susceptible Bird Species

Because the virus originates with birds, several species are more prone to getting the West Nile virus than others. These include crows and jays, and you should always report the sighting of a dead bird to the local authorities. That way, a West Nile virus outbreak can be curtailed before it’s even started.

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Other bird species can contract the disease by eating infected prey birds. Once the disease has been contracted, the bird can become seriously ill and die as a result. If you see a dead bird on your property, don’t pick it up yourself. Call Animal Control so an expert can dispose of the animal. That way, you can prevent transmitting the West Nile virus to yourself and your pets.

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37. Staying on Top of the Situation

To ensure that these measures are working to keep mosquitoes at bay, professionals are always monitoring the effectiveness of them against adults and larvae alike. When evidence shows that something is no longer working, then solutions have to be drafted before the situation spirals out of control.

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This may involve using a newer, better insecticide to control the problem of finding some other way to kill mosquitoes more easily. Either way, mosquitoes have been a problem for many years that no one has found a permanent solution for. As the climate around the world begins to get warmer, the number of mosquitoes on the planet will continue to rise.

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38. Climate Change and West Nile Fever

The complex phenomenon known as climate change has been affecting human health in more ways than one. Many people may not want to face facts, but the effect climate change is having on planet Earth is serious and devastating. It has also had a massive impact on diseases like West Nile fever by changing its seasonality and distribution.

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Mosquitoes usually only infected people during the summer months. This is when people venture out due to warmer weather. However, since the months and weather patterns are no longer predictable, mosquitoes are becoming more and more active during the earlier months of the year.

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39. Climate Change Increases Numbers

Weather conditions, such as increased rainfall, warmer temperatures, and humidity, affect the survival and reproduction rates of mosquitoes, and they’ve been going up year after year. Larvae are also maturing a lot faster, making it easier for them to transmit the West Nile virus and other diseases to hosts once they’re mature.

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At this rate, it will become harder and harder to keep mosquito numbers low, meaning that the number of West Nile fever cases will likely go up. That’s why you must protect yourself from mosquitoes wherever you go outside. Also, be aware of the symptoms of West Nile fever so you can get treatment as soon as possible.

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40. Geographic Shifts

Another thing climate change has caused is the shifting of the mosquito populations. In areas where they’re usually high, such as Arizona and California, for example, some years have produced low numbers. Instead, these numbers are moving on to other under-prepared areas. They typically do not take such measures to protect themselves.

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Areas where the climate is usually cold year-round are experiencing warmer period due to climate change. For this reason, they may not have the idea to protect against mosquitoes before they start to overpopulate. Be aware if there are areas in your town that have standing water as well as a high number of dying birds.