Monday, June 11, 2012

West Nile Virus: How to Stay Safe in the Woods This Summer

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention! Rather than taking the approach of mainstream medicine to simply alleviating symptoms, true health comes from preventing the illness in the first place. West Nile is a great example of an illness that is definitely preventable, without resorting to drugs or chemicals. This week we are sharing a couple of articles on the topic so you can read up on this virus, and some ways to prevent it and keep your family healthy this summer.

This is an Aedes albopictus female mosquito ob...
Under experimental conditions the Aedes albopictus mosquito, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, has been found to be a vector of West Nile virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The West Nile virus is passed from animal to people through mosquitoes. Cases have been reported all across the United States. Summer is a time for camping, hiking and having fun outdoors - but with that comes some risks to be aware of. It has been a while since we first began hearing about the West Nile virus. The initial panic surrounding the condition is mostly over by now, but the exposure threat is still there.

Here are a few facts about the condition. Firstly, the West Nile virus is not passed from human to human or human to animal directly. So, if a person has been diagnosed with it, they can’t affect you unless you are bitten by the same mosquito that bit them.

Also, the condition is not normally fatal. You will feel bad much like you have the flu in some cases, but the symptoms can be treated. Some people might not know that they even had this virus to begin with.

In rare cases, exposure can lead to more serious symptoms. Older people or those who are immune-compromised are at risk for complications if bitten by an infected mosquito.

Protecting Yourself

Whether your risk is great or small, it doesn’t hurt to protect yourself by taking a few preventative measures.

* Wear long pants and/or socks in the woods – Light-colored breathable fabrics can keep you cool in the warm months. When hiking, camping or bike riding they can also cover any exposed skin to reduce the number of places that a mosquito has to feed on you. They will hit your clothing first, giving you time to swat them before they bite you. (Do keep in mind that for some reason, mosquitoes are attracted to the color white, so you may want to avoid this one and stick with pastels.)

* Wear mosquito repellent – There are several different kinds on the market. This includes wet sprays, dry sprays and even insect repellent lotions. Whatever fits the bill for your activity, use it. Be sure to choose natural products with natural ingredients to avoid putting harmful chemicals on your skin (or breathing them in if you use a spray) - see below for a few suggestions. Don’t forget to reapply as needed for the time you will be spending outdoors.

* Avoid standing water – Whether around your home or in the woods, stagnant water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Try to wait until it is drier instead of hiking or exploring the woods after a heavy rain.

* Use mosquito netting for kids – If you live near or in the woods, mosquito netting over playpens can protect kids from exposure when outdoors. Netted tents or gazebos can protect everyone who is spending time outdoors.

West Nile virus is not usually fatal but you can become sick if bitten by an infected mosquito. To enjoy your time outdoors this summer, take a few preventative measures like those above to stay safe. (Think you might be infected? Check back for Wednesday's post on how to identify symptoms of the virus.)

Natural Mosquito Repellents: 
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