West Nile Virus attacks

West Nile Virus, a tropical disease brought to the United States in 1999, has hit an all-time high, with breakouts starting in Texas and other Southern states this summer.

Normally, West Nile starts in August with its peak of attack usually in September. However, with our recent winter being so mild, the mosquitoes could breed earlier and longer.

Mosquitoes are usually the culprit in spreading West Nile Virus, but the start of the spread occurs in birds. Mosquitoes often prefer birds to humans so when the bird they feast on happens to have the virus, it then gets transmitted to the mosquito itself. From there it goes to the mosquito’s next victim.

Traces of West Nile were recently found in Erie by the Health Department after examining dead birds in the area. The birds that contracted the virus may have passed it along to mosquitoes or humans. Since the virus is hard to diagnose, many people will not even realize they have West Nile until it worsens.

According to the director of the Mercyhurst Institute of Public Health, David Dausey, Ph.D., staying away from stagnant/standing water helps ones chances of not being infected with West Nile and any other diseases that mosquitoes may carry because stagnant water is a breeding ground for the bugs.

Other tips to stay safe from West Nile would be to always have a screen in windows when open and to avoid having them open at night since mosquitoes are more active at that time. Wearing bug repellent with DEET in the ingredients will help repel them as well.

Taking all precautions could be necessary during the month of September as Dr. Dausey states that “even though only about 1 percent could die from the virus, it only takes one bite.”