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Don't pass up summer because of West Nile virus



Published: Mon, August 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Seven Americans have succumbed to the mosquito-borne West Nile virus this year, and an additional 115 cases of the illness have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control. But that's no reason for millions of parents to keep their children indoors or for anyone else -- other than those with severely compromised immune systems -- to pass up the pleasures of summer's last few weeks fearing the disease. Common sense makes more sense than panic.

For protection, experts recommend the precautions of wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying indoors during peak mosquito feeding hours between dusk and dawn and applying a 35 percent DEET-containing insect repellent to exposed skin -- an effective, but hardly onerous regimen.

Making sure no standing water is sitting in children's wading pools, unused planters and the like is also a way to stop mosquitoes from breeding. Making sure window and door screens are in place and in good repair will help prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.

No or few symptoms for vast majority

Although West Nile virus can be fatal to many types of birds and some animals, most people who become infected with the virus will have either no symptoms or only mild ones, according to the CDC.

As a story in Saturday's Vindicator noted, there is a vaccine against the disease available for horses, which is probably a good investment for horse owners. The same precautions that are used around the home to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds should be followed around the stable.

Admittedly, the very idea of a disease carried by mosquitoes conjures up images of malaria and yellow fever epidemics. But for humans, the West Nile virus is relatively benign compared to them. And several companies are working toward developing a vaccine against the disease. Until one is available, however, the best defense is to follow the practical measures listed above.

As summer wanes, and the days grow shorter, the less intense temperatures invite family and neighborhood gatherings. Such times can still be enjoyed with sensible precautions.




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