West Nile: Is your child really at risk?

Girl with mosquito biteThere’s a lot in the news right now about the West Nile virus, and with good reason, as there have been 11 reported deaths in the region and 130 reported cases of infection in Dallas County so far this year, according to the latest reports. But before you throw a mosquito net over your house and yard, read what our infectious diseases expert, Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., has to say about keeping your children safe from the disease.

“Certainly children can be infected with West Nile, but they seem to get less severe disease than older adults,” Dr. Kahn said. “However, children, particularly those children with weakened immunity, can certainly get the most serious form of the disease so the potential for West Nile virus infection must be taken very seriously.”

Minimizing exposure is the easiest way to reduce the risk of you or your children contracting the diseases, he says. Here are some facts about the West Nile virus and how to stay safe the rest of the mosquito season:

Symptoms of West Nile Virus

  • 80% of people infected will have no reaction to very mild complications like headaches.
  • 20% will develop West Nile fever, which is accompanied by body aches, nausea and vomiting.
    (And about 1% of those people infected with the West Nile virus will get the most severe form of the disease, which attacks the central nervous system.)

Who’s at Risk

  • Anyone outside at dusk and dawn when mosquito activity is at its greatest
  • The elderly and the immunocompromised

Precautions

  • The number one precaution is to reduce your child’s exposure to mosquitoes. Avoid excessive outdoor activities during dusk.
  • Use mosquito repellents with the appropriate amount of DEET. No DEET should be used for children under 2 months of age, and for children over 2 months, the maximum strength of DEET used should not be over 30%.
  • Empty standing pools of water around your house.
  • Make sure your windows have screens.

Dr. Kahn further discusses these thoughts in this video:

And read this West Nile Q&A.

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