Contact:  John J. Glisch, Associate Vice President, Communications
Office:  321-433-7017  Cell: 321-794-0324

Protect Against West Nile Virus

By Connie Bobik

September 10, 2012 - The summer has brought us scorching sun, sweltering heat and afternoon rains — rains that create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Apart from being annoying, the insects can carry and spread the West Nile Virus (WNV), a disease that is currently receiving national attention.

That’s because its incidence is rising with 1,590 cases and 66 deaths documented as of Aug. 28. That’s a 40 percent increase over the previous week, and the numbers are expected to climb through September and early October as summer rains continue.

In Florida, there have been 19 confirmed cases this year.

There is no treatment or vaccine for WNV. At worst, it can cause permanent neurological damage. A milder form produces headaches, body aches and fevers lasting a few days to several weeks.

Adults over age 50, young children and people with a compromised immune system are at greatest risk. Research tells us that genetics account for a large part of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. Body chemistry and odors that people exude might trigger the insect's sense of smell, luring them to land.

Exercise or exertion that increases the release of carbon dioxide is another call to mosquitoes. Lactic acid from sweat glands draws them as well.

Here are some simple and effective ways to protect again WNV:
•    Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
•    Read the labels carefully and follow directions.
•    Do not over-apply or allow children to use repellent themselves.
•    Wear long sleeves and long pants.
•    Stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

Another important safety measure is to eliminate the sources of standing water where mosquitoes breed. That means emptying buckets and cans and removing water on tarps, pool covers and in flower pots after heavy rain.

It also means keeping roof gutters clear of debris so they drain properly, and cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.

Connie Bobik is an associate professor of nursing and director of Brevard Community College’s Nursing program on the Cocoa Campus.