Recent Outbreak of West Nile Virus in the United States

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In light of the recent outbreaks of the West Nile virus throughout the country, FEMA Safety, Health and Medical Readiness Division would to provide awareness to all FEMA employees.

West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.  Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds that have high levels of the virus in their blood.  West Nile is not transmitted from person to person and there is no evidence that handling live or dead infected birds can infect a person.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s last updated report as of August 14 states, thus far in 2012, 43 states have reported infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes.

The best prevention of West Nile is to avoid mosquito bites.  There is no specific treatment for the  infection or vaccine to prevent it.  Medical care should be sought as soon as possible for persons who have symptoms suggesting severe illness.  Most infected humans have no symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop more severe illness that includes meningitis or encephalitis.  The symptoms of these illnesses can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

To avoid mosquito bites, you can:

  • Limit the number of places available for mosquitoes to lay eggs by eliminating standing water sources from around your home.
  • Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
  • Use repellents containing permethrin or 35% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on both your exposed skin and thin clothing. (Avoid contact in your eyes and mouth)

Utilizing these measures will help you to reduce your risk of coming into contact with West Nile virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Human illness from West Nile virus is rare, even in areas where the virus has been reported.  The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a mosquito bite is low”

This information was provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Occupational Health.

For questions, email FEMA-Safety-Health-and-Medical-Readiness@fema.dhs.gov or call (202) 646-4213.

Last Updated: 
08/23/2012 - 11:05
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