Officials gear up to fight West Nile virusThe buzz and bite of bugs might mean warm weather to Midwesterners, but a recent surge of mosquito-borne West Nile virus has local officials gearing up to fight the bite.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The buzz and bite of bugs might mean warm weather to Midwesterners, but a recent surge of mosquito-borne West Nile virus has local officials gearing up to fight the bite.
Only 19 cases of West Nile virus in humans had been reported in North Dakota as of Aug. 11, with one reported in Stutsman County as of Aug. 16.
“There are less mosquitoes this year — however, the disease is very virulent in the mosquitoes,” said Robin Iszler, unit administrator with Central Valley Health District.
Illness caused by the virus has increased dramatically in the last few weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with numbers indicating one of the largest-ever outbreaks of the virus in the U.S.
Texas has been hit particularly hard, with approximately half of the total 1,118 cases of West Nile, the CDC said. South Dakota has had 72 cases, with one death, and Minnesota has had 20 cases, with one death.
Though 80 percent of people with West Nile virus have no symptoms, 20 percent get West Nile fever, an unpleasant flu-like illness that can last several weeks.
Worse, about 1 in 150 people with the virus will develop a severe form of the illness that affects the nervous system, causing inflammation of the brain or spinal cord.
Damage from the disease can be permanent. It can also be fatal.
Usually, people are infected by bites from infected mosquitoes, which usually get the virus from birds, according to the World Health Organization. The virus can be transmitted through contact with other infected animals or their blood, as well as, in rare cases, through blood transfusions, organ transplants and breastfeeding.
No human-to-human transmission through casual contact has ever been documented, according to the WHO.
“We don’t have to be afraid of being around horses, or being around each other,” Iszler said.
Horses, dogs and cats can all be infected by the West Nile virus. Vaccines are available for horses, but not for humans.
“The biggest thing you can do is try to lessen your risk and exposure,” Iszler said.
That means preventing mosquito bites through using insect repellent, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, staying indoors in the evening and early morning and mending holes in screened windows.
When using bug spray, people should follow the recommendations and instructions on the product, Iszler said, in order to use it safely.
She recommended carrying a bottle of spray around in a purse or backpack.
Being outside means being at risk, the CDC warned. People who work outside are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes, and people age 50 and older have the highest risk of severe disease.
“It takes some vigilance,” Iszler said.
The city of Jamestown is even taking the fight to the mosquitoes.
Judy Huisenga, the city’s vector officer, started a mosquito-fogging run on Thursday night and will complete a circuit of the city as the wind permits.
“This year has been kind of a unique year … we haven’t had to spray very often,” Huisenga said.
During a normal year, the city gets fogged about 10 times, she said.
This week’s circuit of the city was only the year’s second.
During each run, Huisenga drives a pickup truck shooting fog out the back down the middle of the road. The fog disperses about 300 feet, killing adult mosquitoes.
It’s best if the wind is moving at least one mile per hour, up to 10 miles an hour, to move the fog further, Huisenga said. When there’s less wind, she has to cover more area with the truck to ensure the fog gets everywhere it needs to go.
“Right now, Jamestown, we’ve got more male mosquitoes than females flying around, but once it rains and females lay their eggs in the water, with all the males we’ve got we’re going to have a boom of females,” Huisenga warned.
Only female mosquitoes bite, using the blood they take in order to lay eggs.
When Huisenga is spraying for mosquitoes, people should stay inside, because otherwise, she can’t use the fogger.
“And if they don’t go in, I just have to drive by. I’ll actually skip a block at least, if not a little further,” she explained.
The fogging truck is a white Chevrolet pickup with flashing lights and fogging equipment in the back that emits a loud noise when it’s running.
Another way people can help in the war against mosquitoes is to empty out receptacles containing water, such as old tires, bird baths, pet dishes and watering cans.
Grass should be mowed and shrubs trimmed to reduce resting places for mosquitoes, and homeowners can also have their backyards sprayed individually, says a city press release on the spraying.
Briquettes that halt the life cycle of mosquitoes are available at CVHD for use by cities in the area, Iszler said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org