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Fight the Bite: West Nile Virus Spreading, State Declares Emergency

Update Date: Aug 15, 2012 08:01 PM EDT
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As of Aug. 14, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there have been 693 cases of the West Nile Virus. The disease has killed at least 26 people so far. 

The virus has been detected in 43 states. 

Dallas has been the most affected with at least 25 percent of the reported cases coming from there. The mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency. 

Officials in New York, Dallas, and Sacramento have resorted to aerial spraying to fight the spread of the deadly virus. They say ariel spraying is the most effective way to fight the mosquitoes that carry the disease despite safety concerns about exposing people to chemical pesticides.

According to the CDC, the easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites by doing the following: 

When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.

Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.

Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

Experts say approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with the virus will not show any symptoms at all. About one in 150 people infected with the virus 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. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.

The virus is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.

For more information about the virus and how you can protect yourself, visit CDC.gov. 

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