Summer is the season of swat – and I’m not talking about baseball. I’m talking about mosquitoes, especially ones that might be carrying the dreaded West Nile Virus.
Reports are increasing in Illinois of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile. Last year, Illinois reported 290 human cases and 12 deaths attributed to West Nile.
Untreated, West Nile can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of protective membrane covering the brain and spinal cord). While up to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus may not show any symptoms, others may experience fever, headaches, body aches and pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.
The Illinois State Medical Society reminds patients the best way to avoid possible West Nile infection is to use repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. A physician should be consulted before applying repellent on infants.
Other protective measures include wearing long sleeves and pants during evening hours, mosquito-proofing your home, and eliminating mosquito breeding areas such as standing water in flowerpots, gutters and other receptacles. If you think you may have been infected, call your physician.
Note to readers: Eldon A. Trame, MD, is an internist and president of the Illinois State Medical Society.