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West Nile Virus season is here

Although the recent warm weather spell has allowed more time for playing outdoors, trips to the lake and late evening barbecues, the mosquito season is in full force and here to stay for the rest of the summer.

More than just outdoor annoyances, mosquitos are commonly known to carry the West Nile Virus. With insect populations growing with the nice weather, the Kitsap County Health District (KCHD) released a list of suggestions to prevent mosquito breeding along with protection tips against contracting the West Nile Virus.

“We’ve done this at this time of year for the last six years,” said Keith Grellner, KCHD assistant director of environmental health. “It’s really imperative that people protect themselves.”

Attracted to heat and carbon dioxide emitted from the body, mosquitoes are most commonly found in large quantities during the early morning and evening hours.

“When humans exhale ... that (carbon dioxide) and our body temperature is warmer than the air temperature,” Grellner said of the mosquito attraction to humans.

Grellner said eliminating standing water on properties, avoiding or preventing mosquito bites and remaining in good health are the best ways people can protect themselves from the West Nile Virus disease.

Because most mosquitoes need standing water to lay their eggs and multiply, Grellner added that people should clean out their gutters, birdbaths, boats, tires, garbage cans and animal watering troughs to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying.

Other suggestions included repairing and properly fitting screens to home windows, avoiding known mosquito areas such as lakes, creeks or bogs, avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito hours and wearing protective clothing or insect repellent.

Grellner added that individuals who are in good health will have a better ability to fight off the illness of West Nile Virus. With spring rains and warmer weather constantly interchanging around the county, Grellner said a large number of eggs are beginning to hatch.

“This is the time people can prevent egg-laying by removing standing water,” Grellner added. “Any mosquito can carry the (West Nile Virus) disease.”

Symptoms of West Nile Virus 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, according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Web site www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

Approximately one in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness. Eighty percent of people, which amounts to four out of five, who are infected with the disease will not show any symptoms at all. Nearly 20 percent of the people who become infected by West Nile Virus will have symptoms such as fever, headache, 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.

In 2006, three people in Pierce and Clark counties, six horses in Yakima and King counties and 13 birds in King, Yakima, Snohomish, Cowlitz and Island counties tested positive for West Nile Virus. Grellner said humans, horses and birds, specifically crows and jays, are most commonly affected by West Nile Virus.

“Although we have yet to detect West Nile Virus in Kitsap County, we presume it’s already here,” Grellner added. “If mosquitoes are around, people should take precautions.”

Residents are encouraged to report dead crows and jays, with no outward signs of physical trauma, to the KCHD at (360) 337-5285 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The caller should be prepared to report the type of dead bird, the date the bird was found and the closest street address or road intersection where the dead bird was located. For more information, call the KCHD Environmental Health Division at (360) 337-5285, or visit www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

Tips to prevent mosquito bites:

• Eliminate standing water near the home.

• Ensure proper fitting of window screens.

• Avoid mosquito known areas.

• Wear protective clothing or insect spray.

• Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito times.

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