60-Second Health

Experts Offer Tips to Lower Risk of West Nile

This year has had the most recorded cases of West Nile virus on record in the U.S. Public health experts offer tips to avoid the virus. Katherine Harmon reports

Mosquitoes are an unpleasant fact of summer. But 2012 has been especially bad for running into these irritating insects. Because some carry West Nile Virus. And they’re known to have infected some 2,000 people in 48 states this year. At least 87 people have died from the infection, which can cause swelling in the brain.

Almost half of the cases have been in Texas. And to lower the risk of infection, some areas have taken extreme measures, including aerial pesticide spraying.

But people can take some simple measures on their own to reduce their risk. In an essay in Annals of Internal Medicine, public health experts make recommendations. [Catherine M. Brown and Alfred DeMaria, The Resurgence of West Nile Virus]

First, simply avoid areas likely to have mosquitoes. And if you can't—or don't want to—stay indoors, wear long clothes that cover your skin and use insect repellant. Eliminating standing water, such as that pooled in puddles or unused containers, can also help reduce mosquito breeding grounds and populations overall.

Stopping the mosquitoes’ spread helps in the long run—which is what we have to deal with. Because scientists say that West Nile virus is, unfortunately, here to stay.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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