Protect Yourself from the West Nile Virus

  • Published
  • By 1st. Lt Mark Olson
  • 95 Medical Group
Summer is here and with hot weather comes the potential for mosquito-borne illnesses. One of the worst in the United States is the West Nile Virus.

The West Nile Virus is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes, which acquire it through biting birds or other animals. The virus is not transmitted person-to-person, and there is no evidence that people can be directly infected from birds or other carriers.

In 2007, about 3,630 human cases of the West Nile Virus were reported according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From these cases, 124 resulted in fatality, with California having more deaths than any other state.

Less than one percent of people who get bitten by an infected mosquito will become severely ill. Symptoms typically occur two to 15 days after exposure and include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, skin rashes and swollen lymph glands. There is no human vaccine for the West Nile Virus. The only way to prevent infection is by preventing mosquito bites. 

The following are recommended to decrease exposure to mosquitoes: 

  • Consider staying indoors at dawn and dusk, which are peak mosquito-biting times. 
  • When outdoors, wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and other protective clothing. Since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, clothes can be treated with repellents containing permethrin or DEET. If you spray your clothing, there is no need to also spray repellent on your skin. 
  • Apply insect repellant according to label instructions. The most effective repellents contain DEET. The more DEET concentration a repellent contains, the longer it will protect you from mosquito bites. A concentration higher than 50 percent offers no additional protection. 
  • Use care when applying repellent to children. Don't put repellent on their hands and be careful to avoid the mouth and eyes. For children ages 2 through 12, products containing 10 percent DEET or less are recommended. 
  • Take extra precaution protecting children and the elderly because they are more susceptible to the advanced forms of West Nile Virus disease. Ensure that they are wearing protective clothing and repellent. 
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes. 
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property that can support mosquito breeding, including tires, gutters, flower pots and buckets. 
  • Ensure you are adequately protected when visiting local recreational areas. 
  • Call the Public Health Office if there is a significant mosquito-breeding problem where you work or live.
The California Department of Health Services has managed a statewide mosquito-borne encephalitis surveillance program since 1969. If you find a dead bird, particularly a raven, crow, jay or magpie, call the 95th Civil Engineering and Transportation Directorate, 95th Security Forces Squadron, or Environmental Management for retrieval. Do not handle the bird yourself. The birds will be sent to the state's West Nile Virus Dead Bird Surveillance Program to determine if it is infected.

Protecting you and your family from mosquitoes takes a little time and effort, but safety is worth it.

For more information on West Nile Virus, contact the following agencies: 

-- Public Health office 277-2244
-- Kern County Department of Public Health:
-- California West Nile Virus Website:  
-- California Department of Health Services:  
-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  
-- 95th CE at 277-3330 
-- 95th SFS at 277-3340 
-- Environmental Management at 277-1401