West Nile precautions are for all ages

Last year’s West Nile virus season was one for the records, but it does not mean that people should become complacent about taking preventive measures this season, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Last year we had the largest epidemic of West Nile that Texas has ever seen,” said Dr. Kristy Murray, associate professor and associate vice-chair of research in the department of pediatrics at BCM and director of the Laboratory of Viral and Zoonotic Diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Normally you will still see a large number of cases in the second year after an outbreak, so it’s important to take preventive measures.”

Oregon’s only human death was in 2006, a person with a compromised immune system. The state saw a peak in illnesses that year, with more than 70 people infected.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause disease in birds, horses and humans. It affects people of all ages.

Murray, who is a part of the National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM, notes that West Nile cases and positive mosquitoes are already being seen in some areas of Texas. She offers the following tips to prevent mosquito bites this summer:

n Mosquito repellent is the best line of defense — look for one containing DEET or picardin.

n Avoid being outdoors between dusk and dawn — this is when the mosquitoes carrying the virus are most active.

n During the day, avoid stirring these mosquitoes up in areas that have tall grass. Protect yourself from mosquitoes if you plan to garden or do work outdoors.

n Be sure vulnerable populations, such as older adults and children, are using mosquito repellent.

n Don’t become complacent as the summer goes on — the majority of infections occur between July and September.

n If possible, wear long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.

About 20 percent of those infected with West Nile virus will develop a flu-like illness that can last several weeks and cause fatigue. A smaller percentage may develop a neuroinvasive form of the disease, which means the virus has invaded the brain and spinal cord, causing encephalitis, meningitis and/or paralysis. Those with underlying conditions may have additional complications.

Murray recommends seeing your primary care physician if you develop a fever and headache and you know that you’ve recently had mosquito bites. Murray also encourages physicians to test for West Nile virus if patients have clinical signs of the virus. Testing for the virus is done through a blood test or testing of the spinal fluid.

“Reporting cases of West Nile virus is essential because it alerts public health officials and the community about where they need to focus their prevention efforts as well as focus their mosquito control activities,” said Murray.

Murray says that there is no treatment for the virus, so prevention is key. She also notes that although it was previously thought that this disease affects mostly older adults, they are now seeing infection and complications in people of all ages.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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