Many people who are bitten by an infected mosquito won’t get sick; many others aren’t as lucky. Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the United States have been reported as becoming sick withWest Nile Virus. Occasionally, an infected person may develop a more severe disease such as “West Nile Encephalitis,” “West Nile Meningitis” or “West Nile Meningoencephalitis.”
Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain, meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord and meningoencephalitis refers to inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it. Almost 13,000 of the individuals who have been reported as having West Nile Virus since 1999 have been seriously ill, and more than 1,200 have died.
Another problem in some parts of the United States and many places in the tropics is dengue. The World HealthOrganization estimates there may be 50-100 million dengue infections in the world every year. More than 2.5 billion people are at risk of getting infected withdengue virus.
Think of repellent as you would an important article of clothing, and increase your chances of avoiding weeks (or even months) of aches and fatigue that come withWest Nile fever, dengue fever or any number of other mosquito-borne diseases. More severe problems are possible. Being hospitalized withswelling of the brain or even worse are possibilities from many of these diseases.
What repellent should I use? The Center for Disease Control, located in Atlanta, Ga., recommends a variety of effective repellents. The most important step is to pick one and use it. There are those that can protect you for a short while in the backyard or a long while in the woods. DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus are all repellents recommended by the CDC. All contain an Environmental Protection Agency-registered active ingredients and have been studied to make sure they are effective and safe.
When should you wear repellent? Mosquitoes can bite anytime. Most of the mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus bite from around sundown to around sunup (throughout the night). Put a few bottles or packets of repellent around — in the car, by the door, in a purse or backpack.
Where are mosquitoes a problem? Almost all of the continental United States has had reports of people becoming sick withWest Nile Virus. But there are areas of the United States where people are more likely to get severely ill, and these areas can change from year to year.