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Sandra Fryhofer, MD

'Tiger' Mosquito Raises West Nile concerns

By Sandra Fryhofer, MDPosted June 28, 2013 2:00pm (EDT)
Courtesy, <a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia</a>

Courtesy, Wikimedia

The prime time for West Nile infection is right now: June through September. Get ready. West Nile is spread to humans and other animals from the bite of infected mosquitoes.

This year, there’s a new critter to worry about. It’s called the Asian tiger mosquito. It has already spread to at least 26 states, mostly in the eastern U.S.

Most mosquitoes bite at night. This blood-lusting varmint bites all day long. It is very aggressive and has a hard bite. If you swat it, it still hangs on. It can spread West Nile and other viruses including dengue fever, and others that cause brain inflammation (encephalitis).

2012 marked the highest number of deaths (286) from West Nile since 1999, when the virus was first detected in the United States. 2012 also reported the largest number of cases (5674) since 2003. Last summer’s record outbreak was likely due to hotter than normal temperatures. Texas was hit hardest, with about a third of all reported cases. West Nile has been reported in all 48 contiguous states. It has yet to hit Hawaii or Alaska.

Mosquitoes are infected when they feed on infected birds. There is no vaccine to keep you from getting it, so your best bet is to avoid being bitten. Wear insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, oil of eucalyptus, or para--menthane-diol as active ingredients. And wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors from dusk to dawn. Also, rid your yard of standing water sources, where mosquitoes like to breed: flower pots, kiddie pools, bird baths, buckets, and drains.

The good news is most people (70-80%) who ARE infected with West Nile don’t have any symptoms. About 20% of those infected will have fever, headache, body aches, joint aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Fatigue and weakness can continue for weeks or months. A small number of people (fewer than 1% of those infected) have severe symptoms due to infection and inflammation of the brain: headache, high fever, neck stiffness, coma, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis. One in ten of these patients dies.

Protect yourself. Use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and get rid of standing water.

Disclaimer: Your seeking of information on health related topics and/or Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D.'s providing such information herein constitutes neither the solicitation of nor the provision of medical advice, services, care or treatment. Communication with Dr. Fryhofer on this website does not create a doctor/patient relationship. For concerns about your own particular medical condition, you should consult your own medical professional who can examine and evaluate you. Communication on a website is not a substitute for taking an active role in your own medical care and treatment and being personally seen by a physician of choice in your area.
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