West Nile Watch

West Nile Watch

Local, Sate Health Departments Say Not to Worry

While last week’s hurricane rains created breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the chance of contracting the West Nile virus is slim.

Virginia Department of Health public health epidemiologist David Gaines studies more than 56 different species of mosquitoes.

"Only seven out of the 56 different types of mosquitoes can carry the virus," he said.

However, it is important for residents to protect themselves from mosquitoes during prime West Nile season, which falls between March and November. The crucial time is between mid-July and mid-September, when the weather is hot and dry.

Hot and dry weather breeds West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, therefore increasing the risk of contracting the virus.

"Prime mosquito season and prime West Nile season are two different things," he said. "The worst month this year was August because it was very hot and very dry."

The Virginia Department of Health and Loudoun County Health Department work together to protect county residents from contracting the virus, especially during prime West Nile season.

EVEN THOUGH Loudoun County Health Department director Dr. David Goodfriend said there has been no reported case of West Nile in the county this year, he said it is important for humans to take precautions.

In order to prevent residents from contracting West Nile, Goodfriend suggested wearing bug spray when outdoors, making sure window screens are intact and treating any mosquito breeding grounds, like puddles of water.

"Some mosquitoes love damp places," Gaines said.

Other species, like the virus-carrying Northern Virginia House Mosquito thrives off of a hot and dry climate.

"We will certainly see an increase in mosquitoes from all of the rain," Gaines said. "They’re just not the West Nile-carrying mosquitoes."

Goodfriend described the mosquito-born illness to be similar to those of the "summer cold or flu."

"Some people won’t notice anything. Others will get minor headaches or a low-grade fever. In a few cases, patients suffered from severe headaches," he said. "In that case, go see your doctor. Otherwise, just let it run its course."

The most serious effects, about .7 percent of the cases, are inflammation of the brain, the lining of the brain and the spinal chord and temporary blindness. However, Goodfriend said, the majority of patients that contract the virus don’t realize they have it.

"In that case, they don’t have to do anything," he said. "They’ll be fine."

IN ORDER TO protect its citizens from infected mosquitoes, Virginia Department of Health and Loudoun County Department of Health officials worked together to publish informational Web pages, which provide tips on how to avoid mosquitoes, identify West Nile virus symptoms, explain treatments and provide links to useful Web sites.