Md. Dept. Of Health Urges Citizens To Protect Themselves From West Nile Virus

One individual in the state has contracted the disease this year.


Baltimore, Md (KM) Maryland residents are reminded to take precautions when it comes to West Nile Virus. The State Department of Health says one person who lives in the National Capital Region of Maryland has come down with the disease, the only one in the state  so far this year.

Dr. Kim Campbell, the Chief of Rabies and Vector Borne  Diseases for the Maryland Department of Health, says West Nile Virus was first discovered in a province in Uganda which bears that name. “It first appeared in the United States in 1999 up in New York. Our first West Nile activity in Maryland was in 2001. So it’s been our state for 18 years now,” she says.

The disease is transmitted by mosquito bites. “It’s primarily maintained in a transmission cycle between birds and mosquitoes,” says Dr. Campbell. “So basically birds are the primary reservoir or host of West Nile, and mosquitoes pick it up from them. And then the mosquitoes can feed on humans, or sometimes horses, and give it to us.”

Because of that, Dr. Campbell recommends residents remove all standing water from their properties because that’s where these insects breed. That includes cleaning rain gutters to allow water to flow freely. They should also empty or screen corrugated drain pipes; remove old tires or drill draining holes in tires to use as playground equipment; turn over wading pools, wheelbarrows, wagons and carts when not in use; flush water from the bottom of plant holders twice a week; replace water in birdbaths at least twice a month; turn garbage can lids upside down and make sure trash receptacles are empty of water; fix dripping faucets; and aerate ornamental pools and water gardens, or stock with fish and use a circulating filter  system.

In addition to all that, residents are strongly encouraged to wear long pants, long sleeve shirts and hats when outdoors. Dr. Mitchell says they should use “insect repellent on exposed skin. People should use an EPA {Environmental Protection Agency} registered repellent, especially one containing DEET.”

Mosquitoes are most active during the dawn and dusk hours.

A bite from a mosquito can lead to West Nile Virus, but most individuals don’t often feel any symptoms. “A majority of people who get infected with West Nile–about 80% of them–do not have any symptoms at all,” says Dr. Campbell. “And the infection will resolve itself after a few weeks, and they’ll never know they had it.”

But the infection can be severe in some people. “The remaining 20% of people typically will develop flu-like symptoms. They usually include fever, headache,  body ache, joint pain, sometimes  rash, vomiting and diarrhea,” she says. But in most cases, they recover, says Dr. Campbell.

She says people who are most susceptible to the disease are those 60 and older, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

The Health Department says the number of cases of West Nile Virus in humans varies from year to year. Last year, there were 45 cases. In 2015, 46 cases of West Nile Virus were reported in humans in Maryland. And it 2012, there were 47 cases, and in 2003, 73 cases of the disease were reported in humans in Maryland.

Dr. Campbell says mosquitoes will be quite active in the state until the first frost. “Usually,once we get the first frost–usually toward late October–that typically tends to kind of kill off most of the mosquitoes and we stop seeing mosquito activity,” she says. “But for now, we’ll have to wait and see how many more human cases we get until the weather gets colder.”


By Kevin McManus