Residents urged to take precautions against West Nile virus

The Virginia Department of Health warns residents that West Nile virus remains a threat in the region.

“West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito,” said Dr. Charles Devine III, health director for the Lord Fairfax Health District.

A Virginia Department of Health news release states that eight out of the 12 cases in Virginia have been in the Northern Virginia region. Only seven cases were seen in Virginia last year, compared with the 12 cases so far this year.

The northwestern region of Virginia hasn’t seen any cases this year, but there have been cases in past years, said Devine.

The threat of an infected mosquito bite lingers until at least the first hard frost, and recent rains have increased the likelihood of being bitten.

According to Devine, 80 percent of people infected with the virus show no symptoms and the person fully recovers without knowledge of ever having the virus. But about 20 percent of the time symptoms do develop and it is called West Nile fever.

“About one in 150 people infected develop more severe symptoms with fever, headache, and stiff neck. They may also develop confusion, vision loss, seizures, paralysis, and other signs of central nervous system involvement,” Devine said.

Devine said that the risk of mortality is greatest for those over 50 years of age.

“Because some will develop severe illness and there is no specific treatment, prevention becomes very important,” Devine said.

The Virginia Department of Health urges residents to take these preventative measures:

  • Eliminate sources of standing water
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors
  • Stay indoors during peak biting times, such as dawn and dusk
  • Wear long, loose, light-colored clothing whenever possible
  • Apply an insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin

For more information on West Nile virus, visit the health department’s website at www.vdh.virginia.gov

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com