West Nile Virus 2011- What Homeowners Need to Know

As the weather starts to get warmer and mosquitoes start breeding, cases of West Nile Virus 2011 (WNV) occur in both the United States and Canada.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), WNV is a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall.

CDC Facts – West Nile Virus 2011

  • WNV is not transmitted by casual touch, but by the bite of a mosquito. The main way to prevent being exposed to the disease is to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use a mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves and pants (lighter colored clothing is better, mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark colors) or consider staying indoors at these times.
  • Your mosquito repellant should contain DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (PMD) or IR 3535 to ensure long lasting protection.
  • Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. If you find a dead bird, don’t handle the body with your bare hands. Contact your local health department to report the situation and for directions on what they would want you to do to dispose of the body.
  • There is no specific treatment for the WNV infection. One in 150 people will develop the illness severely. Eighty percent (80%) will show no symptoms at all. People over 50 are at higher risk for developing more serious symptoms.
  • Severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness, headache, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions muscle weakness, vision loss paralysis and coma.
  • Milder symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, skin rash on chest, stomach and back, and swollen lymph glands.

Tracking West Nile Virus 2011

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this map to track both Human and Non-Human activity by state. This map will be updated throughout the year.

West Nile Virus 2011

2010 Map of Cases of West Nile Virus in North America. Pink areas had human cases.

Taking Precautions in Your Own Yard Against West Nile Virus 2011

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Generations will breed in the same area if standing water is present. It takes about 4 days for mosquitoes to become flying adults.

Diligent removal of standing water around your property is key.

  • At least 2 times per week, drain standing water from items like pool covers, saucers under flower pots, garbage cans, recycling bins, etc. Check areas that you don’t go to often, like in bushes or under decks or crawlspaces.
  • With the same frequency, change water in pet bowls, bird baths and livestock watering tanks.
  • Keep children’s wading pools tipped on their site for storage.
  • Remove items that have a tendency to collect water from around your property like old tires, bits of trash, cans or containers. Even small amounts of water are potential breeding areas.
  • If you have a tire swing, drill a hole in its base to allow water to drain for less maintenance.
  • Rain barrels should be covered with fine mesh screens.
  • Door and window screens should be tear free and fit snugly to keep mosquitoes from entering your home. When infants are outdoors, consider covering strollers or carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Consider aerating your pond. Aerated water has surface movement, making it inhospitable to mosquito larvae.

Your Gutters: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Gutters are typically the last place people think to check regularly for standing water, but they are quick to trap shallow pools along their length with only a few pieces of debris in their trough. Although no one wants to make ladder climbing a frequent event, it should be done, hopefully just to discover the gutter is debris free and clear flowing. Make sure that that your gutters have no dips along their length; aging or poorly installed gutters can fill with pools without any debris in them at all.

For states and provinces that are chronic sufferers of WNV, consider gutter guards with openings mosquitoes can’t get through, which ensure nothing but water will enter the gutter below. Any system with too big an opening (like the common reverse curve designs) is a potential breeding ground that will likely never be reopened to be properly maintained for mosquito breeding.

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