West Nile cases surge
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 00:09
As of Aug. 31, Ohio has seen 52 human cases of West Nile Virus in the last year with the first fatality in the state, a 76-year old man, from Hamilton County.
Eighty percent of those bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito show no symptoms; the remaining 20 percent typically are mild cases. The people with more severe symptoms from West Nile Virus have immunity factors such as old age, chemotherapy treatment and the presence of an additional illness such as pneumonia or influenza.
Antonio Young, supervisor for the Technical Environmental Service for the Cincinnati Health Department, said that it is difficult to determine exactly how many cases of West Nile Virus actually occur each year.
“Positive confirmation of human cases comes only from blood tests when [people] are hospitalized,” Young said.
Young supervises the department’s health group that sets up test sites around the Cincinnati area to collect mosquitoes infected with the virus. Out of the 148 water pool samples sent to the testing facilities, 36 were confirmed to contain infected mosquitoes. “There’s been an increase overall in West Nile Virus cases across the board,” Young said. “But this year has been sort of atypical in the numbers we are seeing.”
Mike Samet, public information officer for the Hamilton County Health Department, explained how a particular species of mosquitoes, culex, carries the virus more often than other species despite the lack of rain this season. “I know it seems counterintuitive, but culex do particularly well in hot, dry summers, so this speeds up breeding and has exacerbated the number of cases.”
Samet said he expects that this big year for the spread of West Nile Virus will decrease in Cincinnati around September and October.
The Labor Day weekend did more good than harm in reducing the transmissions of the virus.
“All these standing pools of water will get washed out if we have a lot of rain,” Samet said. “Mosquito larvae don’t live in running water.”
Junior Sean Mormino said he does not have many worries about contracting the virus. “If it happens, if I get it, then I’ll deal with it,” Mormino said. “I’m not all that concerned. A couple of people will die from contracting it, but what people don’t realize is more people will die from the regular flu.”
There are simple precautions people can take to prevent contact with West Nile-infected mosquitoes.
“Mosquitoes are most active in the evening and in the early morning, between dusk and dawn,” Samet said. “That’s the best time to either stay inside and avoid them or wear long sleeves and long pants.”
Like sunscreen, Samet says insect repellant needs to be of a certain quality.
“Wear insect repellant that is DEA approved and has DEET in it,” Samet said.
Another less-known preventive effort is draining all standing water as thoroughly as possible. “Even something as small as a soda can,” Samet said, “has plenty of room for mosquitoes to breed.”