“This is the time of year we see West Nile virus cases in Maryland," said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. "Our first confirmed cases of the season should serve as a reminder for all Maryland residents to take the basic steps that can reduce the risk of getting infected."
Measures people can take to protect themselves include:
- Avoid areas of high mosquito activity
- Avoid unnecessary outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when concerned about mosquito exposure
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions
Most individuals infected with WNV will not have any symptoms. People that do develop illness will usually have any combination of fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms generally appear two to 14 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than one percent of persons exposed to the virus will develop more severe infections, with symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. In rare instances, WNV can be fatal. Persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of developing more severe disease. People who are immunocompromised may also be at high risk of WNV infection.
Residents are urged to monitor their own yards and gardens for standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Small amounts of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes. To eliminate mosquito-breeding areas:
- Clean rain gutters to allow water to flow freely
- Remove old tires or drill drainage holes in tires used as playground equipment
- Turn over wading pools, wheelbarrows, wagons and carts when not in use. Flush water from bottom of plant holders twice a week
- Replace water in birdbaths at least twice a week
- Turn garbage can lids upside down and make sure trash receptacles are empty of water
- Fix dripping faucets
- Aerate ornamental pools and water gardens or stock with fish and use a circulating filter system
The Maryland Department of Agriculture will spray in the participating communities that fall within a mile radius of where the person resides and in the area where the case occurred, and continue routine spray operations in all other participating communities.
Although birds are not routinely tested for WNV in Maryland, sick or injured birds can be reported to an appropriate local wildlife rehabilitator. Residents can call 1-877-463-6497 for a list of licensed rehabilitators or visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web site at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/rehab.asp . Detailed instructions on what to do when you find a sick or dead bird can be found at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx .
The number of human WNV cases in Maryland has varied over the past several years. In 2003, the peak year, 73 human WNV cases were reported statewide. The number of human cases declined for several years afterward, ranging between one and 23 cases from 2004 through 2011. However, health officials documented significant increases in human WNV cases in 2012, with 47 cases reported in Maryland and more than 5,600 cases reported nationwide.
Following today’s announcement of the first confirmed cases, DHMH will provide weekly updates on its website. For each confirmed case, DHMH will release whether the infected individual is a child or an adult, and the region of the state where it occurs. The three cases announced today will be reflected in the report posted on Wednesday, August 28. The reports will be available each Wednesday at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx.
For additional information on West Nile virus, visit:
- Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx
- Maryland Department of Agriculture: http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/mosquito_control.aspx
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html
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