OUR OPINION: Mosquitos cause wide human illness

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippians in earlier generations had to cope as best they could with Yellow Fever, a deadly mosquito-borne disease that periodically reached epidemic proportions in our state and other parts of the Deep South.
West Nile Virus, also transmuted by mosquitos that have bitten infected birds, is a more recent and unwelcome import to our state and virtually all others.
Mississippi recently recorded its first 2011 West Nile-related death, a woman from Jones County.
West Nile isn’t necessarily deadly to all who are bitten by infected mosquitoes, but precautions are sensible because the virus, while controllable with the pevention of mosquitos, has staying power.
The virus originated, it is thought by epidemiologists, in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In the early years, when less was known about it and the public less educated about its dangers, the death toll and spread were alarming.
As people became aware of how it was transmitted and cautions increased, the counts went down.
Most infections with West Nile virus cause no illness, but about 20 percent of people infected with the virus suffer flu-like symptoms – fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, and fatigue. About 1 in 150 people infected with the virus develop neurologic symptoms. These symptoms include the encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord), or poliomyelitis (paralysis combined with fever and meningitis).
Mosquito eradication and prevention is the surest way to avoid West Nile.
Control centers on preventing standing water in which mosquitos can thrive and in cutting grass ad shrubs in which they take shelter.
Experts recommend using a spray with DEET, a proven effective repellent.
West Nile infection is caused by a virus. Most cases occur after a bite from an infected mosquito. The mosquito picks up the disease from biting an infected bird, and it then passes the virus on when it bites a person, horse, dog or some other animal. An increase in dead birds may signal an increased risk for the transmission of this virus.
Most people in the South who spend time outside at dusk or in early morning have been “buzzed” or bitten by mosquitos.
Mosquitos, the American Mosquito Control Association reports, cause more human suffering than any other organism: “Over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year. … In addition, mosquito bites can cause severe skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. … CDC Travelers’ Health provides information on travel to destinations where human-borne diseases might be a problem.”
Reducing risks takes little effort, and it can be life-saving.

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