West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. It is a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. Right now it’s raging and health officials at the CDC last week said that there have been 1,118 cases of the disease reported across 38 states, including 41 deaths.
Texas accounts for about half of the cases in the entire country. Researchers believe that this summer’s extremely hot weather following a particularly mild winter is what has led to the largest outbreak ever seen. While Texas is the most heavily affected state, WNV is in every state this year except Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitos and is carried by birds. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to stop mosquito bites. Many municipalities are spraying pesticides in the air. It is recommended that individuals who will be outside where mosquitos may exist should use a bug repellent containing DEET. Stay indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most likely to bite, and wear long clothes. Use mosquito netting over baby carriers and strollers and be sure to repair any broken window or door screens.
Pregnant women may be concerned about the safety of insect repellants during pregnancy. The insect repellant DEET (diethyltoluamide) is among the most effective at keeping insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks, from biting. Preventing insect bites is important during pregnancy because mosquito- and tick-borne infections, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease, erlichiosis and babesiosis may be harmful in pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend any special precautions for pregnant women using DEET-containing products, when used as directed on the product label.
For more information about West Nile virus, read this information from the CDC.