UPDATE 8/21/12 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Health officials say the first case of West Nile virus in West Virginia this year could be in Kanawha County.
Doctors say this should be a wake-up call.
Health department officials say a man in his 40s is in the hospital with what appears to be West Nile.
It's not a confirmed case yet, but doctors say it's reason enough to start taking precautions.
For Hayley Woodrum and the kids she cares for as a nanny, the news of West Nile in Charleston means changes to their day at the park.
“From now on, we'll kind of load up more with the bug spray and just kind of be more aware of our surroundings,” Hayley said. “If we see any type of bugs, we'll be swatting at them.”
The Kanawha County patient is in stable condition, but Dr. Rahul Gupta with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says the disease shouldn't be taken lightly.
“It is a potentially fatal disease,” Gupta said. “That's why we want to make sure people understand the precautions to take to prevent mosquito bites in the first place.”
Those safeguards include bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants and staying indoors at dawn and dusk.
“One of the important procedures that you can do to prevent mosquito population growing in their neighborhood is to prevent any accumulated water,” Gupta said.
That means gutters, uneven concrete and even the area around and underneath your flower pots.
“That's news to me,” Woodrum said. “I was unaware. I thought that it happened at a larger body of water or an area where water was sitting for a long period of time.”
Woodrum says even though the news about West Nile is scary, you can't live in fear.
“As far as making us stay indoors, I really don't see that happening,” she said.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says a man is receiving treatment for the virus. He is in his late 40's.
The virus is spread primarily through mosquito bites.
“West Nile Virus, like other mosquito-borne diseases such as Lacrosse Encephalitis, can cause symptoms that include a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash,” states Dr. Rahul Gupta.
While most that have been exposed to WNV may not have any symptoms, Dr. Gupta cautions that in some cases, people may develop serious illness such as encephalitis or meningitis that can lead to hospitalization, and in rare instances, death.
Health officials say you can protect yourself by wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors, using insect repellants, remove standing water from around your home and avoid mosquito peak hours which are around dawn and dusk.
“You can significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by eliminating potential places for standing water where mosquitoes love to breed such as bird baths, tires, flower pots, wading pools, and other containers,” says Anita Ray, Director of Environmental Health Services. “Don’t forget to keep gutters clean and flowing and drill holes into the bottom of recycling or garbage containers to prevent water from stagnating.”
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