They are sounds synonymous with summer: The little buzzing in the air followed by the sound of skin being smacked. Ahhh… mosquitoes… I grew up in Houston where warm, muggy temperatures are the norm in the summer months and mosquitoes grow so large that they could honestly be called the official bird of the city!
There seems to be two kinds of people when it comes to mosquitoes – those that seem immune to any bites and can spend hours outside without any concern at all and those that look like a human pincushion after 5 seconds. I definitely fall in the former category. I can run around outside completely DEET-free without a care in the world. Because I am never bothered by the pesky bug I tend to tune out the occasional warning to protect myself during mosquito season. It has been a much different story this year. If you turn your TV on for just minutes you will hear the dire messages about the Public Health Emergency in Dallas (and rapidly spreading to other cities in Texas and the US) – West Nile Virus. 2012 has seen more human cases of the disease through late-August than any other year since it was first identifies in the States in 1999. Most experts agree that this will end up being the worst year yet since mosquito activity does not usually peak until early fall.
So, what is the concern with West Nile Virus? The most important thing to remember is that there is no need to panic. It’s hard to keep that perspective when you see nightly updates on where ground and aerial spraying will occur after yet another infection and death. However, it is estimated that 80% of West Nile infections in humans cause no symptoms at all. Most of the remaining 20% will experience fever, body aches, headaches, skin rashes, nausea and vomiting. A VERY small group of people will get a severe illness resulting from infection. Most deaths have occurred in the elderly population with people who already have underlying health problems. However, since simply being outside means you are at risk even if you are young and healthy, if you experience any flu-like symptoms, see your doctor immediately for testing and treatment.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family? The Texas Department of State Health Services says to remember the 4 “Ds”:
- Apply bug spray that contains DEET. This product can be found in most insect repellents sold in almost every grocery/discount store. Be sure to spray exposed skin and clothing.
- Even though it is hot outside, DRESS in long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Wear socks to cover your ankles.
- The peak times for infected mosquito activity are DUSK and DAWN, so, if possible, stay indoors during those time periods.
- DRAIN any standing water in areas like flower pots, pet bowls and truck beds. If you see areas of standing water around your community, please contact your Camden Management Office and we will try to correct the problem. In addition, if you see a pick-up truck with standing water in the bed, let us know and we will try to contact the owner of the vehicle.
The bottom line is that the threat of West Nile Virus should not keep you from enjoying the end of summer, but with awareness we can try to lessen any further outbreaks in our cities.