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Adventist Hinsdale Hospital physician offers tips to avoid West Nile virus

The summer months bring lots of opportunity for fun outdoor activities.  Despite this summer’s cooler weather, time spent outdoors can make adults and children targets for summer bugs and bites.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008 there were 44 deaths among 1,356 human cases of West Nile virus.  As a result, physicians at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital are encouraging families to enjoy their time outdoors while taking care to avoid infectious diseases caused by mosquito bites. 

“While a majority of infected individuals will have mild or no symptoms, West Nile virus can still cause encephalitis, paralysis, coma, or death,” said Director of Infectious Diseases at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital Dr. Ed Sherman.  “Those who have compromised immune systems or are elderly are at the most risk for complications or fatal consequences.”
Because biting mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile virus and encephalitis, swelling of the brain, it is important to use protection when outside this summer.  While anyone living in an area with infected mosquitoes is in danger of contracting West Nile virus, those over the age of 50 are at a much greater risk.  Although the number of infected mosquitoes is lower this summer due to the mild temperatures, it is still important to be careful. 

“We want people to take the threats of West Nile virus seriously no matter what the weather conditions are like outside,” said Sherman.  “There are many ways to prevent this disease, but people need to take the time to do them.”

It is important to act with caution when outside during the summer.  Use the following steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites and infection of West Nile virus: 

• Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens,
• Use mosquito repellants,
• Eliminate standing water,
• Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and closed shoes when outdoors,
• Encourage local officials to treat small ponds with larvacide and add larva eating fish to larger ponds as an additional control,
• Avoid locations with higher populations of mosquitoes such as marshes and wetlands,
• Avoid going outside during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are the most active, and
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and hot tubs. Keep them covered when they are not in use.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches.  The illness can last a few days or a few weeks.  If you or someone you know exhibits signs of West Nile virus, seek medical attention right away.  Although there is no specific treatment for the virus, supportive care can be administered at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.