West Nile Virus
Summer is here, and with it, those blood-sucking pests we call mosquitoes. More than just an annoyance, the recent emergence of West Nile Virus (WNV) has made the mosquitoes that carry and transmit WNV a health concern for parents.
Just how much of a risk does the West Nile Virus pose? Less than one might think for young children, reports the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In 2002, there were 4161 people who tested positive for the virus; 277 of those people died. In 2009, 720 cases were confirmed, 32 died. No one age group is more susceptible to being bitten by an infected mosquito or contracting the disease. And not everyone who contracts the virus becomes ill. Statistics have shown that for whatever reason, "this virus causes illnesses much, much more often in older adults than in children," according to Geoffrey A. Weinberg, MD, FAAP of the AAP Section on Infectious Diseases. Only 49 known cases were reported in children under 10 in 2002, those that number is still higher than in previous years.
Most people who are infected with the WNV will not have any type of illness. It is estimated that 20 percent of the people who become infected will develop West Nile fever, with mild symptoms including fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms of severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. It is estimated that 1 in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease.
Those most at risk for developing serious, life-threatening symptoms from WNV are over 50. Persons with suppressed immune systems are also at increased risk, regardless of age. There is no vaccine available for the disease.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) cautions parents to focus on more immediate health concerns and practice simple prevention regarding the insect menace. If you aren't bit by an infected mosquito, you won't get West Nile Virus.