FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- During recent routine surveillance on Fort Drum, officials trapped a mosquito that tested positive for West Nile virus.
The site where the infected mosquito was trapped on Fort Drum is being treated with the proper insecticides and offers no further threat.
West Nile virus was first identified in 1999, and since then, random monitoring has been done in states where it has appeared. Not all animals that test positive are necessarily ill or symptomatic of West Nile virus infection. Occasionally, though, the disease appears in the news when the virus causes a serious case or outbreak
of human infection.
West Nile infection is caused by a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Researchers believe the virus spreads when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human, giving him or her West Nile infection.
There have been no known cases of West Nile infection in humans at Fort Drum. The last time officials detected West Nile infection in mosquitoes or birds was in early 2000.
Although there is no vaccine against West Nile and many people are bitten by mosquitoes that carry the virus, it is not a disease that represents a huge deadly threat. Most people with West Nile infection show no symptoms; some people experience fever and mild symptoms followed by complete recovery; and a few
people (less than 1 percent of those infected) have severe symptoms, with death being a rare occurrence.
While few people develop severe disease or notice any symptoms at all, it’s wise to be aware of symptoms that people might experience, although they are pretty
general and could indicate many other things. They include mild fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and/or back pain. Signs and symptoms of West Nile virus usually last only a few days.
According to the Mayo Clinic, less than 1 percent of people who are infected become severely ill. Individuals who may experience severe West Nile symptoms are those older than 50 or the young, those who have weakened immune systems, and pregnant women. Even those who do get ill usually recover fully.
West Nile virus has been detected in all lower 48 states (not Alaska or Hawaii) since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Outbreaks have occurred every summer since then in areas where the virus is present in mosquitoes. This area of New York is an extremely low risk area.
The overall risk of contracting West Nile virus depends on these factors:
- Time of the year. Most infections occur when mosquitoes carry the highest amounts of virus, which is between the months of July and September. (American Accreditation HealthCare Commission, 2008).
- Geographic region. West Nile virus has been reported in most of the United States, but Midwestern and Southern states recently have had the highest incidence rates.
- Time spent outside. Those who work or spend lots of time outdoors have a greater risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- What prevention measures can be taken?
- Use mosquito repellent with DEET.
- Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by emptying water from all outdoor containers that collect water such as bird baths, pools and garden pots.
- Make sure all doors and screens are sealed and without holes.
- Unclog roof gutters.
- Cover infant strollers and playpens with mosquito netting.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when going into mosquito-infested areas.
- Avoid being outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are prevalent.
Individuals who experience symptoms of West Nile infection should seek advice from a health care provider. In general, though, the outcome of a mild West Nile
virus infection is excellent. Taking measures to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes is the best health care practice to avoid infection from those pesky flying
nuisances. Any questions can be addressed to the Environmental Health section of Preventive Medicine, USA MEDDAC, at 772-7678.
Nancy K. Dobies, R.N., Army Public Health Nursing