California’s first 2010 human cases of the disease West Nile Virus (WNV) were recently confirmed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The infections were discovered in two women from central California’s Stanislaus County through routine blood testing. The tests were conducted when the women attempted to donate blood to an area blood bank.
In a statement issued on July 16, the CDPH gave precautions on preventing further spread of the blood-borne disease:
“With the first confirmed human illnesses from West Nile virus this year, we are intensifying our surveillance for the virus with the help of all counties,” said Dr. Mark Horton, Director of the California Department of Public Health. “The most important step people can take to prevent West Nile virus infection is to protect themselves from being bitten by a mosquito,” he advised.
First identified in Uganda in the 1930s and discovered in the U.S. in 1999, West Nile Virus is a disease typically transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Both people and animals are susceptible to contracting the illness. The effects of the disease are often mild and include symptoms like: abdominal and back pain, fever, diarrhea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, vomiting and sore throat. These unpleasant symptoms typically last between three to six days.
In rarer cases, West Nile Virus can lead to the development of serious neurological conditions such as meningitis or encephalitis. Elderly people, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to the more dangerous form of WNV. Signs of a possible WNV infection in need of immediate medical attention include: loss of consciousness, stiff neck, muscle weakness and confusion.
According to the CDPH, neither women from Stanislaus County required hospitalization, and both are recovering from their infections. In addition to these first human cases, WNV has also been reported in 19 California counties in 52 dead birds, six chickens, one squirrel and 107 randomly sampled mosquitoes.
The CDPH offers four tips, or “four Ds,” to all California residents and health professionals, including Bay Area Medical Assistants, to help prevent the spread of WNV:
- DEET – Apply inspect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, lemon or eucalyptus oil or IR 3535. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
- DRESS – Covering skin reduces the risk of exposure to WMV-infected mosquitoes.
- DAWN AND DUSK – Mosquitoes are especially prevalent during the early morning and evening. During these times, repellant and appropriate clothing can offer increased protection from mosquito bites.
- DRAIN – Since mosquitoes lay their eggs on standing water, draining it from swimming pools plant pots, tires, pet bowls and rain gutters can help reduce the mosquito population.
Outbreaks of West Nile Virus and other contagious diseases in California require increased care from skilled healthcare personnel like Sacramento Medical Assistants and San Francisco Medical Assistants. Discover now how Unitek College’s quality training program can get you started in this growing field.
For more information about West Nile Virus, please visit www.westnile.ca.gov.