PARKERSBURG -As temperatures rise and the valley experiences summer showers and storms, the threat of mosquito bites and the diseases they are known to carry and transfer rises.
"Each year the threat of West Nile virus and La Crosse encephalitis returns with the new generation of mosquitoes," said Jessica Woods, interim regional epidemiologist with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
While there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus or La Crosse encephalitis in West Virginia or Ohio this year, local mosquito pools have been tested and come back positive for West Nile virus, Woods said.
"Each year we catch mosquitoes from around the area and test them to see what diseases they are carrying," Woods said. "This year some batches came back positive for West Nile but not La Crosse."
The two diseases may be spread to animals and people through the bite of an infected mosquito but cannot be spread by casual human to human contact.
Symptoms for West Nile virus include fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, confusion, weakness, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck.
At a glance
- With heat and rain come the mosquitoes, which are known to carry diseases that transfer by bite to animals and humans.
- Cases of West Nile virus and La Crosse encephalitis typically occur in the summer and fall when mosquito season is at its peak, said Jessica Woods, interim regional epidemiologist with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
- To ward off itchy bites and the potential for disease, people are encouraged to use insect repellent and remove mosquito-breeding grounds from around homes.
Those infected with La Crosse encephalitis often have no symptoms, but those who do become ill report fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Some who become ill also develop sever neuroinvasive disease, which affects the nervous system and often involves an inflammation of the brain and can include seizures, coma and paralysis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"La Crosse encephalitis is more common in West Virginia than West Nile virus, but we have not had a reported case locally," Woods said. "In West Virginia, we have 10 to 20 cases of West Nile virus reported annually."
The last locally confirmed case of West Nile virus was in 2011.
To prevent the possibility of contracting either of these diseases, Woods recommends people use insect repellent and reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes by emptying standing water.
"There is no amount of water too small for mosquitoes to breed in," she said. "So we recommend removing all standing water from cans, bottles, old tires, wading pools, flower pots and other containers."
Staying indoors during peak mosquito hours at dusk and dawn is also recommended.
"You really can never be too careful," Woods said. "As long as you're wearing insect repellent, you should be safe."
The health department will continue to monitor West Nile activity with dead birds, horses and limited mosquito surveillance. Anyone who sees a dead bird is asked to contact the health department at (304) 485-7374.
Birds are tested for West Nile and other mosquito-borne diseases through the West Virginia Office of Laboratory Services.