West Nile, a type of virus known as flavivirus, was identified in 1937 in Uganda. It was discovered in the United States, in New York, in the summer of 1999 and since then has spread throughout the United States.
West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes have been confirmed in cities and town in Connecticut and Westchester County. The disease is most common during August and early September, which is when mosquitoes carrying the highest amounts of the virus are abundant. As the weather cools, mosquitoes die off and the risk of infection decreases.
To avoid mosquitoes, stay inside when they feed, which is typically between dusk and dawn. If you are outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants as well as socks and shoes. Here are the Centers for Disease Control's tips for avoiding West Nile virus:
Use mosquito repellant only on exposed skin and/or clothing;
Use repellants that contain10 percent or less DEET for children and no more than 30 percent DEET for adults. Don't use repellents with DEET on infants and small children. When using repellant, do not spray toward face or under clothes. Apply with hands away from cuts, eyes and mouth.
Reducing the number of mosquitoes in your backyard can help decrease the spread of West Nile virus. Cleaning roof gutters or any areas where water collects will help to eliminate their breeding grounds.
If you do become infected with West Nile virus, you might experience minor symptoms, such as low-grade fever and mild headache. Or, you might not experience any symptoms at all. Fewer than 1 percent of the people sickened develop life-threatening illnesses, such as West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis that include inflammation of the brain, the CDC says.
The mild signs and symptoms of West Nile virus infection (fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue) generally go away on their own, but severe signs and symptoms severe headache, disorientation, lack of coordination, convulsions, tremors or sudden weakness -- require immediate attention.
The CDC states relatively few reports of infection in dogs and cats. Check with your veterinarian about how to protect them from mosquitoes.