West Nile virus takes life of second Alabamian this year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2005

Contributed Report

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that the second Alabamian this year died as a result of infection with West Nile virus.

Both victims were male residents of Montgomery County, one middle-aged and the other elderly.

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Eight positive human cases have been reported in Dallas, Elmore and Montgomery counties so far this year. Those figures compare with 15 in 2004, 38 in 2003 and 49 in 2002.

The virus was also found in six horses in Bibb, Chambers, Colbert, Escambia and St. Clair counties, four birds in Jefferson, Lee, Mobile and Shelby counties and seven mosquito pools in Jefferson, Lee and Macon counties during 2005.

Mel Stephens, state public health veterinarian, said the location of West Nile virus infections depends greatly on the types of birds and mosquitoes in the area.

“It’s not gaining steam,” Stephens said, “and it’s not really spreading, but there is a background persistence throughout the country,” Stephens said.

“As of Oct. 25, there had been 73 deaths nationwide as a result of West Nile virus this year,” according to a statement released by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis are transmitted from bird to mosquito to bird. Occasionally, the same mosquitoes will take blood from mammals, including humans and horses. Mosquitoes pick up the virus by feeding on the blood of infected birds.

The disease cannot be spread from person to person or from animals to people. All mosquito-borne diseases can be prevented by taking simple measures to avoid mosquito bites.

As temperatures drop in Alabama, mosquito activity should dramatically decrease, and the risk of West Nile virus transmission should decrease as well.

Health officials advise the public to use practical strategies to prevent mosquito bites and mosquito-borne viruses.

Personal Protection: Clothing and Aromatics

Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothes to help prevent mosquitoes from reaching the skin and to retain less heat, making yourself less “attractive” to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colors.

When possible, wear long sleeves and long pants.

Avoid perfumes, colognes, fragrant hair sprays, lotions and soaps, which attract mosquitoes.

Personal Protection: Repellents

Follow the label instructions when applying repellents. Permethrin repellents are only for clothes – not for application on the skin.

When using repellents avoid contact with eyes, lips and nasal membranes.

After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.

Use concentrations of less than 10 percent when applying DEET-containing products on children.

Apply DEET repellent on arms, legs, and other exposed areas, but never under clothing.

Citronella candles and repellents containing citronella can help, but their range is limited.

Herbals such as cedar, geranium, pennyroyal, lavender, cinnamon, and garlic are not very effective.

Personal Protection: Around the Home

Mosquito activity peaks at dusk and again at dawn; restrict outdoor activity during these hours.

Keep windows and door screens in good condition.

Replace porch lights with yellow light bulbs that will attract fewer insects.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water; empty all water from old tires, cans, jars, buckets, drums, plastic wading pools, toys, and other containers.

Clean clogged gutters.

Remove the rim from potted plants and replace water in plant/flower vases weekly.

Replenish pet watering dishes daily and rinse bird baths twice weekly.

Fill tree holes and depressions left by fallen trees with dirt or sand.

Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito fish or use larvicide “doughnuts.”