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Summer brings mosquitoes, West Nile Virus

Summer's heat is upon us, and so are mosquitoes.

Unfortunately with mosquitoes come diseases such as the West Nile Virus.

"West Nile is caused by a female mosquito bite," said Jason Harlow, Emergency Response Coordinator for the Lawrence County Health Department.

"If bitten, it could cause encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain."

He said, like the common cold, there is not a vaccine or treatment for mosquito-borne illness, but the body will take care of itself.

"Because it is a mild virus, we build an immunity to it," Harlow said. "The population that is most effected is infants and the elderly because their immune systems aren't as strong."

Georgia Dillon, a women's nurse health practitioner with the LCHD, said symptoms of the virus include high fever, sever headache, stiff neck, body aches and vomiting. She said and neurological issues could be signs.

"Most people who are bitten just think they have a bug," Harlow said.

Unfortunately, mosquito season has just began, usually kicking off in mid-May, and it will not end in this area until September. The up-side is there are ways to protect against being bitten.

Dillon said using insect repellent with DEET and avoiding early morning and evening activities because that is when the insects are most active are ways to protect oneself.

When outside it is good to remember light colors are least attractive to mosquitoes.

Another problem is breeding.

"Mosquitoes are bad to breed," Dillon said.

To help prevent breeding, yards should be kept clean, water should not be left stagnant in tires or containers such as buckets and to clean bird baths weekly.

Harlow said it is especially important to prevent any standing water in containers because that is where mosquitoes are most likely to breed.

Because it is so early in the season, it cannot be determined if this season will be bad for mosquitoes or not.

Dillon said the threat of West Nile is relatively the same as it has been in the past, but it all depends

on the weather.

"The Ohio Department of Health said if we get a wet spring with a dry period, it could get worse," she said.

Mosquitoes will be around though, and it seems the West Nile Virus will also be sticking around.

"It will always be an issue," Harlow said. "I don't thinks it is as big as when it started because we had never seen it."

Harlow said what made the virus such a big deal when it first appeared in 1999 was that no one knew what it was, how to treat it and the reactions of people.

More information about West Nile Virus or other tips can be found at www.odh.ohio.gov.