November 24, 2017

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Mosquitoes, Bites and West Nile Virus

Mosquito biteBy Jo DeBruycker, RN, MPH, ACMC Health Learning Center

Mosquitoes, and mosquito bites, are annoying. What is worse, mosquito bites sometimes transmit serious disease such as West Nile Virus.

How to reduce mosquito bites?

You’re most likely to get mosquito bites at dawn or dusk, when mosquitos are most active. But, it’s not always possible or desirable to stay indoors during these times. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep mosquitos at bay.

Repellants containing DEET are still the most widely used and can provide long lasting protection. Premethrin is a strong repellant and will kill mosquitos that come in contact with treated clothing. Other alternatives include repellants containing picardin, oil of lemon, eucalyptus or IR3535.

Minimize activities at dusk or dawn. If you must spend time outdoors, wear loose fitting, long-sleeve shirts and long pants if you must spend time where mosquitos are biting. However, no method is foolproof.

After the bite

If you do get bitten, the telltale signs and symptoms of mosquitoes bites – redness, swelling and itching – may not show up for up to two days after you’ve been bitten. A number of treatments, such as oral antihistamines and topical lotions can ease the itch from mosquito bites.

West Nile Virus

Minnesota has seen our first confirmed case of West Nile Virus this year in late June/early July, although the species of mosquito that transmits the virus to humans is most abundant in July and August.  Anyone not using repellants before should begin to use these now to prevent this disease.

Culex tarsai mosquitoes, which carry West Nile, prefer the open, agricultural areas of central and western Minnesota. Symptoms of this disease begin 3 to 15 days after being bitten and include:

  • Headache
  • High Fever
  • Rash
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Stiff Neck
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis and Coma

About 1 out of 150 people bitten by West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes will develop central nervous system disease. Elderly people or people with weakened immune systems face the highest risk of developing severe disease.  But remember, illness from West Nile Virus can occur in residents throughout Minnesota and among all age groups.

Jo DeBruycker, RN, MPH, ACMC Health Learning Center

Jo DeBruycker, RN, MPH, ACMC Health Learning Center