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West Nile on the Rise? How to Protect Yourself

Wednesday, July 03, 2019 10:39 AM

With the high amount of precipitation and rising temps in the Midwest, mosquitoes are on the rise. According to the Lake County Health Department, a batch of mosquitoes sampled in Highland Park on June 13 is the first to test positive for West Nile in Lake County in 2019. So far there have been 73 confirmed human cases of the virus in Lake County and four confirmed deaths since 2002.

West Nile Applying Mosquito Repellent

That’s why this summer mosquito protection is a must. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to stop mosquito bites by applying repellent and wearing long sleeves and long pants. To avoid bites, apply a repellent with one of these active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-mentane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

Did you know that 8 out of 10 people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms? What can you expect if you do? According to Johan Olof Lane, MD, Internal Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are the symptoms you need to watch out for:

Minor symptoms: About 1 in 5 people who are infected with West Nile develop a fever with other symptoms like headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Severe symptoms: About 1 in 150 people develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord). Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

While West Nile can affect all ages, people over 60 are at greater risk. People with medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and those who have received organ transplants are also at a greater risk.

Recovery from severe symptoms may take several weeks or months. See your healthcare provider at NorthShore if you develop symptoms or have further questions.