Avoid West Nile Virus with simple precautions

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- With the sun shining and the birds chirping, summer is finally in full swing. This means an increase in time spent outdoors for you and your loved ones. However, summer also means a drastic rise in the mosquito population. While most people simply consider mosquitos a nuisance, it is important to remember that they can also carry and spread disease, the most important of which in North Dakota is West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus is typically carried by birds and transmitted by mosquitos to humans. Most West Nile infections occur during the summer months (June-September) when mosquitos are most active. This virus was first identified in the United States in 1999 and has caused outbreaks every summer since. Last year North Dakota alone had 23 cases of West Nile Virus, and there were more than 2,000 cases identified throughout the United States. Recently a human case of West Nile was identified in Grand Forks County and a deceased bird found on Grand Forks AFB has also tested positive for West Nile Virus. What this means for us is that the West Nile Virus is present and active in Grand Forks County and on Grand Forks AFB.

Fortunately, approximately 80 percent of people infected with West Nile clear the virus on their own and do not develop signs or symptoms of the infection. The other 20 percent of people who are infected will develop minor symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

In very rare cases (less than 1 percent), individuals infected with West Nile Virus will go on to develop severe symptoms that affect the brain and the spinal cord. Recovery in these patients may take up to several months; however, in rare instances, it can be fatal. Those at highest risk for developing severe symptoms are individuals over 60 years of age, infants and those who have compromised immune systems.

Currently there is no vaccine for West Nile, so in order to protect yourself and your family you are encouraged to use insect repellents containing DEET, wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin from dusk through dawn when mosquitos are active, eliminate sources of standing water around the house, and install screens on doors and windows.

If you suspect that you have been infected with West Nile and are experiencing symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash please schedule an appointment with your provider. If you are enrolled to the 319th Medical Group, please contact the Call Center at 701-747-5601 for an appointment.
For more information on West Nile Virus, visit http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html.