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21st Medical Group warns of West Nile risk

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Medical Group is warning residents of Colorado Springs about West Nile Virus risks for the summer. 

The West Nile Virus is a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. 

Most often, West Nile is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, then spread the virus to humans and other animals when they bite. West Nile is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing.

Approximately 80 percent of those infected with mosquito-borne viruses do not become ill and exhibit no symptoms. For those who become ill, the time between the mosquito bite and the onset of symptoms, known as the incubation period, ranges from three to 14 days. 

Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected will display symptoms which can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can be as brief as a few days or as long as several weeks. 

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. 

There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus infection. In cases with mild symptoms, fever and aches abate on their own. In more severe cases, people may seek help at a medical facility. People ages 50 and older are more likely to develop serious symptoms of the virus if they get sick, so they should take special care to avoid mosquito bites. 

If you develop symptoms of severe West Nile Virus illness, such as unusually severe headaches or confusion, seek medical attention immediately. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should talk to a doctor if they develop symptoms that resemble West Nile Virus. 

Prevention is key. Being aware of prevention activities will reduce the disease in the population. 

Avoid Mosquito Bites

When you are outdoors, use insect repellents containing DEET. 
Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and at dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants, or consider staying indoors during these hours.
Light-colored clothing make mosquitoes visible when they land.  

Mosquito-proof your home
Keep mosquitoes outside by fixing or installing window and door screens.
Drain all outdoor standing water. A small amount of standing water can be enough for a mosquito to lay her eggs. Look around every week for possible mosquito breeding places.
Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots and other items. Throw away or cover up stored tires and other items that aren't being used. Clean pet water bowls weekly. Check if rain gutters are clogged. If you store water outside or have a well, make sure it's covered up. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. 

Dead Birds
If you find a dead bird, don't handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of the body. 

For additional information please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov or contact the base Public Health Office.