Although this blog is supposed to be about immunizations, I can’t help myself. I am very interested in prevention and in travel medicine as well, so the recent outbreaks of West Nile Virus have my attention. All of us in Houston need to learn “Mosquito Precautions” that are generally taught to travelers to countries with malaria and yellow fever!
In Dallas, and now in Houston, cases of West Nile disease are on the rise. In many neighborhoods, you can see unusual numbers of dead birds on the ground, felled by this infection. This is a mosquito-born illness, one of several that are present in the U.S. St. Louis Encephalitis and also some cases of dengue fever have been propagated by mosquitoes here. And, historically, both Yellow Fever and malaria were common in the southern states.
West Nile is worse this year than ever before and Texas has reported over half of the cases. Most cases of West Nile virus are mild and not even diagnosed, but the virus can cause encephalitis, chronic disability and death. Recent reports suggest that kidney disease may also be caused by this virus. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection and no vaccine.
Prevention of mosquito bites is the way to go. I know that no one likes the smell of mosquito repellants, but those with DEET are best, followed by those with picaridin. Dawn and dusk are the worst times to be outside, and in my neighborhood, those are prime jogging and dog walking times with lots of bare skin showing.
You’re probably going to shower after you run anyway, so USE INSECT REPELLANTS! Move your jogging time to earlier or later, when it is either fully dark, or well into daylight. Wear long sleeves and long pants to walk your dog if you don’t use repellants, and avoid perfumes and bright colors.
Insecticide-treated clothing is also available. Around your home, eliminate standing water and adjust your sprinklers so that the gutters don’t keep puddles afterwards.
For full information on West Nile infections, check out the CDC website, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/