WEST NILE VIRUS
“ONLY ABOUT one in 200 people infected with
West Nile virus will develop severe symptoms of
the disease,” says Dr. Joseph Vinetz, professor of
medicine at the University of California, San
Diego. Persons age 50 or older are at the highest
risk for severe disease, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
West Nile symptoms, which usually last a
week, range from fevers, headaches, nausea and
vomiting to muscle weakness, vision loss and
even paralysis. In rare cases, the virus can be
fatal, though 80 percent of folks who contract the
virus don’t experience any symptoms.
While severe cases may require hospitaliza-
Symptoms & recovery By Rita Colorito WITH SUMMER under way, mosquitoes are out to prey. These pesky insects are more than a nuisance for summer barbecues and travels. With a danger of West Nile virus nationwide and other vector-borne
diseases (see “What’s your vector?”) around the
globe, mosquitoes can also make you very sick.
“People tend to go to a chemical solution, but
that’s not always effective,” says Joseph Conlon,
spokesperson for the American Mosquito Control
Association. To keep mosquitoes away, think in terms
of the three D’s, says Conlon: drain, dress and defend.
Drain mosquitoes away
Standing water in your backyard—decorative
fountains, fish ponds, even a dribble of water on the
lids of your garbage cans—can be a breeding ground
for mosquitoes. To keep the mosquito population
from exploding, check your yard for places water
can collect. Low spots in lawns and holes in trees
can trap water, so fill these in. Cover rain barrels
with a screening cloth to keep mosquitoes out.
“You need to be fastidious. I’ve seen mosquitoes
breed in discarded bottle caps,” says Conlon.
It takes mosquitoes five days to go from egg to
adult, says Conlon, so you can keep a bird bath as
long as you empty it every few days.
Mosquitoes don’t breed in deep or flowing
water, so choose circulating fountains and avoid
shallow fish ponds less than a foot deep. A larvicide
in water features will also reduce mosquitoes.
tion, usually to replenish fluids, Vinetz says
most folks will feel better by taking ibuprofen,
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(aka NSAIDs) or acetaminophen. He cautions
against the use of aspirin because of the potential for side effects.
As for malaria, Vinetz advises anyone who
returns from a high-risk region with a fever to
immediately see a physician to rule out malaria.
The CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne
has additional information on West Nile virus,
malaria and other mosquito-transmitted
or PMD) and the biopesticide IR3535. The insecticide permethrin can be sprayed on clothing and
shoes for further protection, but it’s highly toxic to
cats, so use with caution.
Defend your territory
Spraying your property with insecticides should
be your last line of defense, says Conlon, whose
organization advocates limiting their use to reduce
the possibility of mosquitoes building resistance.
“While there are chemicals you can use, most
only last a few hours and some involve non-target
kills of other insects that help our ecosystem,” he
notes. And, contrary to popular belief, he adds,
mosquitoes do not breed in grass, so spraying the
lawn is overkill.
To defend outdoor space, use fire and fans
instead. Citronella candles provide a mild repellent,
but it’s actually the smoke that keeps bugs away.
Mosquitoes are weak fliers, so outdoor fans blow
As for expensive mosquito traps and zappers,
save your money. “We don’t advocate things that
haven’t been proven effective, though some folks
swear by them. As public health professionals, we
don’t want people to think they’re protected when
they’re not,” says Conlon. C
vector? What’s your
Dress for success
When getting dressed, choose light-colored,
loose-fitting clothing. “Mosquitoes can and will bite
through tight clothing,” says Conlon. Studies have
shown that some mosquito breeds are attracted to
the colors red and blue.
Spray on a mosquito repellent containing DEET,
recommends Dr. Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine and director of travel and tropical medicine at
the University of California, San Diego. Because no
repellent is foolproof, Vinetz also prescribes antimalarial drugs for travelers headed to Africa, Asia
and South America, where there’s a higher risk of
contracting malaria, an often fatal illness.
The Environmental Protection Agency also recommends the use of repellents containing picaridin,
oil of lemon eucalyptus (aka p-menthane 3,8-diol,
“Vector-borne disease” is
the term used to describe
an illness caused by an
infectious microbe that is
transmitted to people by
spiders or blood-sucking
insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice, biting
flies and bugs, mites and
ticks. The term “vector”
refers to any arthropod
that transmits a disease
through feeding activity.
The Costco Connection
Costco carries insect repellent and citronella
candles in select locations.
JUNE 2012 ;e Costco Connection 53
Rita Colorito (
frequently about health, safety and consumer issues.