It’s mosquito season and that brings one fear to mind above all others when it comes to being bitten by the annoying bug: the West Nile virus. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, and while there is no treatment for the infection and no vaccine available, there are several ways to avoid the virus.
Most people who get infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms, though some people develop a mild illness called West Nile Fever. This mild illness gets better on its own; no treatment is necessary. However, a small number of people – that is, less than 1 in 100 – who get infected with West Nile virus develop severe symptoms such as headache, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness, tremors, convulsions, coma, and paralysis.
The best way to avoid the illness is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, and to that end, the Pulaski County Health Department is offering free mosquito wipes and repellants to the public. Sherry Fagner, environmental health specialist at the health department, said the wipes will be provided will supplies last.
“Each year we do a program to prevent mosquito bites that cause the West Nile virus. We’ve used grant money each year to purchase wipes that we offer free to the public. We try to offer only one per family. Toward the end of summer sometimes we have a little more left, but at the beginning, we try to do just one per family,” said Fagner.
The wipes are available at the health department, located at 125 S. Riverside Drive in Winamac, and they will be available at the Pulaski County 4-H fair on July 2. Office hours are 8 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Fagner said the mosquitoes have already shown to be a nuisance this spring; fortunately, that’s all they are, as most of the mosquitoes out are not transmitters of the West Nile virus.
“They are pretty active this year,” said Fagner. “We were in contact with the State Department of Health, and they informed us that most of the mosquitoes we’ve seen early this year were just nuisance mosquitoes. Ones that are carriers of the West Nile virus should be coming out in the next couple weeks is what they’re telling us.”
Fagner also has some advice for those who wish to avoid the itchy bite of mosquitoes.
“Basically, what we recommend is using repellant, wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants, especially in early mornings and late evenings – dawn and dusk is when they say they’re out, so that’s probably the best way to avoid being bit is to either not be out at those times or take the precautions with the repellants,” said Fagner.