The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recommends the following precautions to protect against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases:
• When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient, including DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the directions on the package.
• Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, but can bite at any hour. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at peak times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
• Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
• Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
When traveling to areas where zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
• Use the same insect repellents suggested above. If you are using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
• Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
Additional affected areas include many countries in the Caribbean and South and Central America. The list and more information can be found at cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides this Web page with additional information about West Nile virus and preventing mosquito bites see cdc.gov/features/StopMosquitoes.
KDHE conducts mosquito surveillance primarily in Sedgwick County. For more information, visit kdheks.gov/epi/arboviral_disease.htm.
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, disease-toting mosquitoes take to the sky.
On Monday, the CDC issued a travel advisory for a Miami, Fla., neighborhood due to a zika virus outbreak.
Then on Tuesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported the first case of West Nile virus in Kansas.
Now, local, state and federal health officials are urging calm.
“The key is not to panic,” said Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider. “But, be smart and vigilant.”
It is time to practice “good old Kansas common sense,” she said. “We’ve dealt with mosquitoes all our lives.”
The zika virus
The mosquito most commonly behind the spread of zika is the aedes aegypti. “It is difficult to control and it prefers humans over animals,” Schneider said.
However, not every bug is carrying the illness. “Sometimes peope panic and they think all mosquitoes are infected,” Schneider said.
So far, there have been eight confirmed cases of zika in Kansas. These were all “travel cases,” meaning the people contracted the disease while abroad.
“The fear is they may come back to Kansas sick but they don’t know it,” Schneider said. As many as 80 percent of those with zika are sick but don’t show any symptoms, but can still transmit the virus.
“Kansans should be aware of the health risks posed by zika virus,” said Dr. Susan Mosier,secretary of KDHE and state health officer. “We urge everyone to become informed about zika virus and its modes of transmission and to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. zika virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes and these transmissions have taken place in many countries in the world and now a very few cases in Florida. It has also been transmitted through sexual contact.”
Zika virus infection typically causes a mild illness in those who develop disease.
There is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for zika virus infection. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The best way to prevent zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites.
Pregnant women can be infected with zika virus in any trimester and there have been increased cases of microcephaly possibly associated with zika virus infections. Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to areas where zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with zika virus should talk to a health care provider even if they don’t feel sick.
CDC and KDHE have guidance to help doctors decide what tests are needed for pregnant women who may have been exposed to zika virus.
According to the KDHE, the individual who tested positive for West Nile is an adult from Thomas County.
West Nile virus is be spread to people primarily through bites from infected culex species mosquitoes, although the virus has been detected in more than 60 different mosquito species in the U.S, Schneider said. West Nile virus is not contagious from person to person.
The culex species are known to transmit West Nile virus; they are not known to transmit zika virus.
Symptoms range from a slight headache and low-grade fever to swelling of the brain or brain tissue and in rare cases, death. People who have had West Nile virus before are considered immune.
West Nile virus cases are most common in the late summer and early fall months. In 2015, there were 34 cases of West Nile virus in Kansas, and more than half of these cases were hospitalized.
Birds are not tested for West Nile virus in Kansas and KDHE will not be collecting information about dead birds. If you find a dead bird, KDHE recommends that you wear gloves, place the bird in a plastic bag, and dispose of it in the garbage.