Summer is here…and the mosquitoes are starting to emerge. Don’t forget your insect repellent when you are out enjoying the sunny weather. With the prevalence of West Nile Virus in the DFW area last summer, here is some important stuff to remember are we head into the summer season.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus causes symptoms in only 20% of infected people. That means 80% of infected people are asymptomatic. Common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, rash, and decreased appetite. Other less common symptoms include the following: a sore throat, eye pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Less than 1% of individuals can develop more severe disease including meningitis and encephalitis.

How do you test for and treat West Nile virus?

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, and we do not routinely test for West Nile virus. Symptoms are should resolve on their own in 3-6 days. We recommend treating the individual symptoms and seeing your pediatrician if your child does not get better.

How do you prevent West Nile virus?

Since transmission of West Nile virus is through mosquito bites and not person-to-person contact, the best method of prevention is to protect you and your children against getting bitten. Avoidance of being outdoors during times of increased mosquito activity (around dawn and dusk) is a good step. If you are outside during these times, then wearing long sleeves and long pants as well as a good insect repellent is beneficial. Insect repellents that contain DEET are the most effective in preventing bites. Removing all standing water around your house is also helpful.

What is the best insect repellent?

Insect repellent that contains DEET is the most effective at preventing insect bites. Levels of DEET can vary between repellents. The recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is for DEET to be no more than 30%. The percentage of DEET is indicative of the duration of effectiveness. For example a repellent with 10% DEET lasts 2 hours whereas one with 25% DEET last about 5 hours. Of course, the type of activity also plays a role in how often the repellent needs re-application.

City of Plano West Nile Virus Hotline 972-941-7180

Ashley B. Gair, MD