The combination of warmer weather and standing water means that mosquitoes are now if full force, and everyone should be taking the necessary precautions to prevent West Nile virus, especially senior citizens.
Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.
Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die. In 2012, there were 89 reported cases of West Nile virus in North Dakota, with one fatality.
To prevent mosquito bites, the CDC recommends:
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors.
- When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent will give extra protection. Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing. Wear light colored clothing.
- Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours. Use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside. Use your air conditioning, if you have it.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.
For more information, go to ndhealth.gov/wnv.