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On the lookout: West Nile Virus cases rising

This year, there have been a lot of news reports on different species of mosquitoes coming to the United States. Combine that with all of the rains and flooding this summer and fall in areas across the country and you have heightened concerns about an increase in the mosquito population. As you may already know, mosquitoes are a vector of a terrible illness - the West Nile Virus. 

Unfortunately, the West Nile Virus is becoming more widespread throughout the United States, and more specifically in states in the west. We want to educate you on the symptoms, what you can do to protect yourself, and how we can help. However, if you have any concerns about mosquito bites you have received, contact your doctor immediately. This article, in no way, should be used to self-diagnose any illness.

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Close up of red, black, brown, and white mosquito on person's skin.

West Nile Virus reportings on the rise in the west

Though it is not discussed often, the West Nile Virus is still very prevalent throughout the majority of the states in the US and it has recently become a lot more common in the west. As of November 16, 2021, the CDC released preliminary data showing a total of 1,974 West Nile cases reported compared to a total of only 664 in 2020, with 1,049 of those cases being in Arizona. Out of the 1,974 cases reported in 2021, 69% were classified as neuroinvasive disease (meningitis or encephalitis) and 31% were considered to be non-neuroinvasive disease. And the year isn’t even over yet.

Four states, including Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and West Virginia only reported non-human West Nile Virus activity. Non-human West Nile Virus activity includes infections in mosquitoes, birds, or sentinel animals and veterinary cases.  The remaining 44 states (not including Alaska or Hawaii) all have had West Nile Virus human infections in 2021. 

Image of human skull showing West Nile Virus Encephalitis in brain.

There have been 128 total deaths, with Arizona reporting 70 of those deaths. (A week ago, Arizona only reported 39 deaths. That’s a 79% increase in just a week!). Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nebraska have the highest number of cases per area per state - all reporting over 100. For comparison purposes, in 2020, there were only 52 total deaths and Texas reported the highest death total at 20. 

Symptoms of West Nile

Symptoms of West Nile can appear 2 – 15 days after being bitten. The average, healthy, human being will not get sick and will not have any complications. Most people will not even show any symptoms. However, those with compromised immune systems (young or elderly), immune disorders, or on medications that may be suppressing their immune system could experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Rash

Less than 1% of the population (about 1 in 150 people) could develop more serious symptoms like West Nile fever. The symptoms of West Nile fever are more flu-like and can cause truly dangerous illnesses like West Nile encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), West Nile meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord),  or West Nile meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membrane).

Man wearing a white t-shirt scratching a bug bite on his arm while mosquitoes fly around him.

It is important to note that these are only a few of the risks associated with the West Nile Virus. There are other illnesses that can cause paralysis, either temporary or permanent, rashes, vomiting, severe headaches, or neck stiffness. If one of the more serious illnesses manifests, it can lead to brain damage and nerve pain. In some rare cases, it can even become fatal. 

If you are bitten by a mosquito and begin to exhibit any signs listed above, it is best to check with a physician to be safe.

Mosquitoes are the problem

With over 1,974 West Nile virus reports in 2021, you may be wondering how this virus spreads. The one major vector of the West Nile virus is mosquitoes. Mosquitoes do not actually start the virus, but rather a mosquito will become infected with it after biting an infected animal. The virus is then in the mosquito’s system. After biting and injecting their fluid to feed, an infected mosquito can transmit the virus to you. 

There is only a slight chance that someone can transmit the West Nile virus to someone else. Blood transfusions, breastfeeding, organ transplants, or from mother to fetus are ways the virus can be transmitted from human to human though it is rare. Most human-to-human West Nile virus transmissions happen when dealing with infected blood in a laboratory setting.

View of a back deck on a brick house with an outdoor ceiling fan, grill, bar, and wooden fence.

Mosquito prevention

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from mosquitoes - both on your property and when you are out exploring. Below are a few tips to make your yard less appealing to mosquitoes and to protect yourself while outdoors.

How to prevent mosquitoes in your yard

  • Turn over objects that can collect water to eliminate standing water on your property. If you have a pond, get an agitator to keep the water moving. Common spots for water to collect are flower pots, watering cans, wheelbarrows, birdbaths, and garbage cans.
  • To prevent water buildup, check and clean your gutters. Remove all wet leaves to ensure proper water drainage. 
  • Adult mosquitoes hide and rest in tall grass so keep your lawn trimmed.
  • Keep patio furniture away from dense foliage areas. These are areas where mosquitoes like to hide and being close to them will make it easier for them to bite you.
  • Keep air circulating by using outdoor fans. Mosquitoes are such weak flyers that having a fan where you want to relax is enough to keep them from flying to you.

How to prevent mosquito bites

  • Wear an insect repellent that has an EPA-registered active ingredient such as DEET. Apply the repellent to your ankles and other exposed areas of skin. For maximum protection, apply sunscreen first before applying insect repellent.
  • Plan your activities accordingly and try to avoid being outside at dusk and dawn. Dusk and dawn are peak feeding times for mosquitoes, which increases the likelihood of getting a mosquito bite.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants that are light in color as mosquitoes are attracted to darker clothing. Also, avoid wearing heavily scented lotions, shampoos, and perfumes.


Western can help protect you from mosquitoes!

The best way to ensure that you don’t have mosquitoes invading your yard is to contact us, the professionals. We offer targeted treatments for mosquito control, providing you and your family the protection you need when you need it.

And as a reminder, you should always visit your doctor if you have any concerns about any insect bites.

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