Question of the Week

June 23, 2003


"You may have heard people talking or seen news reports about West Nile, a virus that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. In areas where the West Nile Virus has been found, very few mosquitoes have it. It's true that the virus can cause an infection in the brain, but the chances that you will get very sick from any one mosquito bite are re-e-e-ally low. But, you still want to protect yourself and pitch in to help cut down on the number of mosquitoes."

The CDC offers these words of encouragement to kids. Before you decide to ignore the problem because it could "never" happen to you, keep in mind that on the same page they stress the need to be careful and protect yourself (West Nile aside, who wouldn't mind fewer mosquito bites).

How much of a problem is this virus?

"As of June 18 2003, 23 states are reporting WNV activity in birds, horses, or mosquitoes."

"West Nile first struck the northern hemisphere in Queens, N.Y., four years ago and killed four people. This year, all 50 states are warning of an outbreak from any of the 30 mosquito species known to carry it. From 62 severe cases in 1999, confirmed human cases of the virus spread to 39 states in 2002, and it killed 284 people....The virus cannot be stopped by quarantining people, because birds and mosquitoes that carry it cannot be quarantined."

While the disease is spreading, "The CDC points out most people who are infected don't develop any illness: Only about 20% of infected persons develop West Nile fever with symptoms including mild fever, headache and body aches, and sometimes a rash and swollen glands. Just 1 in 150 people who are infected develop the severe form of the disease, with symptoms like headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. The most severe cases, those involving brain inflammation, are called West Nile encephalitis. Even in these severe cases, however, the CDC estimates that between 85 and 97 % of patients will survive."

How is your state preparing for this potential threat to public health? For a detailed list of state and local West Nile Virus resources:

Question of the Week:
How much of a concern is West Nile Virus where you live? Who is at risk?
What can you do to help reduce the risk to yourself and others?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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