West Nile and the Mosquito

Essay by lspopCollege, Undergraduate July 2008

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The Wes Nile virus has stuck fear in the hearts of many Americans over the past few years. Part of the reason for this is because the virus was not introduced to the United States until 1999. The Wes Nile virus is a flavivirus which is closely related to St. Louis encephalitis. The virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses and various other mammals. The Wes Nile Virus is tied almost directly to my major because its main way of transmission is by mosquitoes which are pests. My major is Integrated Pest Management, there are hundreds of IPM agents around the country that have gone through great lengths of effort to try and educate citizens about how to protect themselves and help control the mosquito population, as well as being involved in several different methods of controlling the pests in their local communities such as trapping and eliminating the pests.

Where the Wes Nile virus came fromAlthough outbreaks around the world were not uncommon the appearance of the Wes Nile Virus did not occur in the United States until 1999 in New York City. This occurrence marked the first major manifestation in the continental U.S.. Now the virus is found in virtually every state. Prior to the appearance in the United States the virus was most commonly found in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East. Although it is estimated that the Wes Nile Virus came from the Middle East it is still unclear how it finally arrived in the U.S.. Due to the viral load in humans it is highly unlikely that the virus came here from and international traveler. It is much more likely that the virus came here via a migrating bird or through and adult mosquito transported by a form transcontinental transportation. Unfortunately for us due to the continued expansion of the Wes Nile virus in the United States it indicates that it is permanently established in the Western Hemisphere.

How dangerous is the Wes Nile virusIn 2003, alone the illness affected more than 9,800 people in the United States resulting in 264 deaths. However approximately eighty percent of all who are infected with the Wes Nile virus will have an infection without the presence of symptoms. The people will produce an immune response and will probably never know that they were infected. The majority of people that display infection of the Wes Nile virus will experience fever, headache, backache, myalgias and anorexia. This illness which is self-limiting only lasts a week to fourteen days. Other mild symptoms are red rashes and difficulty swallowing which usually effects only half affected patients, impacting both the patients comfort and nutrition. More severe symptoms include Wes Nile encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain, Wes Nile meningoencephalitis which is inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it and Wes Nile meningitis which is inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord.

Prevention of the Wes Nile virusThe Wes Nile virus most commonly occurs through the bite of an infected mosquito. Transmission occurs from infected birds to mosquitoes during a blood meal, noting that only female mosquitoes bite in order to lay eggs, male mosquitoes live primarily on nectar. Recent literature shows that there has been one hundred and forty-six infected species of birds recorded, most commonly crows and blue jays. Also 29 species of infected mosquitoes have been recorded, the most common of which is the culex variety. The culex is most active at dusk and dawn and is not categorized as and aggressive biter. Due to the lack of an effective medicinal cure control of the Wes Nile virus depends upon both clinical and public help. IPM agents around the country along with other scientist are in the process of trying to educate the public on how they can help control this problem. If all citizens band together in trying to reduce the breeding grounds of the mosquito it would be very effective in reducing the population of virus spreading mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed and lay eggs in stagnant water. For citizens to eliminate these areas they should empty all outside containers in their area of residence and turn them upside down so that they will not be able to collect more water. Maintaining wading pools, birdbaths and pet dishes would eliminate a lot of the problem. Also citizens should ensure covers on all outdoor furniture and lawn tools to prevent them from containing stagnant water.

The United States Army is also taking measures to decrease the number of virus spreading mosquitoes. During 1999 The U.S. army implemented vigorous Wes Nile virus surveillance and detection programs. In 2001, Fort Detrick staffs were notified about a single pool of nine culex mosquitoes that were collected near Nallin Pond in Maryland that tested positive for Wes Nile virus. While they were able to dodge the Wes Nile virus in 2001 by successfully eliminating mosquito breeding areas the virus overwhelmed to northeastern region of the United States and finally made its way to Fort Detrick in 2002. Due to the fact that infected mosquitoes were found in Fort Detrick efforts were increased to eliminate breeding areas for mosquitoes such as coordinate efforts between Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health offices as well as the Environmental Management office. They used staffs to inspect and clean out storm drains and stock ponds with insect eating fish.

Congress is also stepping up efforts to help control the problem. Mike Ross a representative from Arkansas in the House of Representatives pledged his support for legislation to assist counties across the country in combating and better coordinating their response to the virus. Ross says “A limited number of areas in our country have mosquito abatement programs in place, Yet we are being overrun with mosquitoes carrying the Wes Nile Virus. While only 6 human cases have been diagnosed in Arkansas, nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 985 human cases of Wes Nile infection, and 43 deaths due to the virus. Wes Nile virus is no longer a regional problem, this is an epidemic that threatens all of us, and we must act now to reduce that threat.” After this statement the House of Representatives passed a bill allowing 100 million dollars matching grant programs through the CDC to assist counties in creating and maintaining a mosquito control program.

In order to protect yourself from the Wes Nile virus you should avoid or minimize your time spent in outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, by doing this your will be able to limit the number of times you get bit. Also wear pants , long sleeve shirts, shoes and socks. The best and safest way to repel mosquitoes is to use a repellent containing DEET such as Deep Woods Off. The most effective amount of DEET in a repellant is 20-30%. However repellants with greater than 35% DEET should be avoided by small children and pregnant women due to safety reasons. Also make sure that all screen doors and windows are in good condition.

ConclusionThe mosquito is without a doubt one of the most irritating insect pest known to mankind. Not only is the mosquito a pest it is also the main source of transmission of the Wes Nile Virus. Although there have been countless attempts performed by Integrated Pest Management Agents across the United States the Wes Nile virus has spread rapidly across the united states over the past five years and help from the average citizen is the only way to reduce the number of infected mosquitoes and to eliminate their breeding habitats. Even though the Wes Nile virus has minimal effects on most of the people it has infected a person should still take precautions to help protect him or herself by practicing the methods listed above. The Wes Nile virus is here to stay in the U.S. but that does not mean that we can not fight back.

Works CitedNauert, Rick. 17 2004. Ear, Nose and Throat specialists offer Primer on Wes Nile virus. newswire. 29 Sep 2004 www.mydna.com/resources/news/news_20040917_entwnv.html.

Unknown, Unknown. West Nile virus Information. 29 Sep 2004 .

Unknown, Unknown. 31 2004. Environmental Health Wes Nile virus. Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health office. 29 Sep 2004 .

DesOrmaux, Marie. 10 2002. Ross Urges Funding for Communities to Fight West Nile . 29 Sep 2004 .