Protect yourself from West Nile virus for Labor Day

HOUSTON - A lot of people will be spending the Labor Day holiday outside, so officials warn that precautions should be taken against West Nile virus.

Every state, except Alaska and Hawaii, has seen outbreaks. Texas has been the hardest hit, with nearly half of all infections in the country.

The West Nile virus killed 66 people so far in 2012 nationally, with over 1,500 human cases being reported in the country. Thirty human cases were confirmed in Houston and Harris County and three of those people have died.

This year has been named as the worst since the virus hit the U.S. over a decade ago. According to the CDC, those numbers are expected to rise.

"It's a late summer disease so the fact the we've got so many cases this early and it's so wide widespread does not bode well," said Joe Conlon with the American Mosquito Control Association.

"When we find virus activity, we go to that area and we spray that area," Dr. R. Bueno in Harris County.

Seventeen areas in Harris County were sprayed last night.

"We've noticed the difference," said Eddie Rodriguez, who helps run the golf course at Bear Creek Park, which was sprayed last week. "It's better than it used to be."

There are ways to help protect you and your family from the deadly virus.

The most common -- use a repellent, experts say preferably one that has DEET in it -- mosquitoes hate the smell.

Also, according to Harris County, the mosquito that carries the West Nile virus is most active during dusk and dawn, so use extra precautions then.

Protect Yourself From West Nile Virus

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus, which is spread through mosquito bites, can be fended off by emptying containers that may collect rainwater and sprinkler water. Also, use insect repellent, especially when going out in the evening.

To help eliminate mosquito-breeding sites and prevent mosquito-borne diseases, residents should do the following:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk.
  • Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Children should use insect repellents that contain less than 10 percent DEET. Do not apply DEET on babies. Adults should use insect repellents that contain more than 10 percent DEET.
  • Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good condition.
  • Keep the storm sewers clean to reduce mosquito breeding.
  • Sweep up lawn clippings, leaves and limbs from sidewalks, driveways, curbs and gutters.
  • Don't let lawn water or car-washing water enter the street.
  • Pick up litter and other debris from the yard and the street.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of the house.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Seal cracks and gaps in the house.
  • If mosquitoes are in the house, use flying insect spray, following label instructions.
  • Empty, remove or dispose of anything in the yard that can hold water: flower pot saucers, cans, toys, litter, rain barrels, plastic sheeting, etc.
  • Pet water bowls and birdbaths should be emptied and refilled at least twice a week.
  • Keep rain gutters on the house clean and properly draining.
  • Repair household water leaks and move air-conditioner drain hoses frequently.

West Nile Virus Symptoms In Humans

  • Flu-like illness, with moderate to high fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness or joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Possible seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory symptoms

West Nile Virus Symptoms In Animals

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Convulsions

For more information about West Nile virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

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