Do your part to reduce West Nile virus risk

info@islandpacket.comAugust 31, 2012 

Anyone who has stepped outside this week (when the rain occasionally stopped) has probably been besieged by mosquitoes.

They are a bane of Lowcountry living, just like sand gnats in the spring and fall. We learn to cope.

But Wednesday's report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cases of West Nile virus were up 40 percent in one week reminds us there can be serious consequences to a mosquito bite.

The number of human cases this year has grown to 1,590, with 66 deaths. Thirty-one deaths have been in Texas.

West Nile virus has been reported in all lower 48 states; only Alaska and Hawaii have escaped.

In South Carolina, 15 people had contracted the virus as of Aug. 23, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. No human cases have been reported in Beaufort County.

This year is shaping up to be the worst for the virus since 2003. That year, the U.S. had 9,862 reported cases; in 2002, there were more than 4,100 cases and 284 fatalities, according to the CDC.

Rather than rely solely on large-scale spraying, we all can take steps to reduce our risks. It starts with using insect repellent when we go outside. The CDC says it should contain an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Stay indoors during those times if you can. If you go out, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the chance for bites.

Most importantly, especially after this week's rain, there will be a lot of standing water around our homes, where mosquitoes can breed. The mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are freshwater mosquitoes.

Drain water from flower pots, children's wading pools, old tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and rain barrels and anywhere else water collects.

If you find a dead bird with no obvious signs of injury (the virus travels from birds to mosquitoes to humans), don't handle it. Contact the local health department.

Don't be an easy mark for mosquitoes. Do what you can to reduce your risk.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service