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As West Nile virus reappears in El Paso, experts urge mosquito precautions

With three confirmed cases diagnosed in El Paso this past week, West Nile marked its return to the Borderland for the first time this year.

West Nile fever is an infection caused by the West Nile virus, which is typically spread by mosquitos that have fed on infected birds which carry the disease.

About 80% of those infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms, and go unreported.

About 19% of infected people develop symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting or a rash, all that can vary widely in severity. One percent of people develop encephalitis or meningitis, with associated neck stiffness, confusion and/or seizures.

Recovery for those with severe symptoms may take weeks to months.

Symptoms manifest themselves usually in 3 to 14 days after being bitten, and most people recover completely. Sometimes fatigue and weakness last for weeks or months.

Most human cases of West Nile occur in late summer and fall; people over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease. Keep babies, toddlers and young children safe from bites, and keep a close eye on those who have been bitten.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the most effective way to prevent West Nile disease is to prevent bites by mosquitos that are passing along the virus they picked up from infected birds.

Especially this summer, flooded areas, heavily wooded yards or any habitat continually damp from frequent and/or heavy rains make perfect habitat for happy mosquito mating. Eliminating these areas can result in fewer of the pesky critters.

Restrict outdoor activities when mosquitos are most active: Starting in early May until the first hard frost; and between dusk and dawn, but know that mosquitos will bite anytime during the day and night.

Use an insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin, the outside of clothing and any carried gear.

Wear shoes (not sandals), socks that extend up the leg, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Install or fix screens on windows and doors. Keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, a running house fan can help keep mosquitos away from people because mosquitos are weak fliers.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile fever, so, remember — Sun screen bug spray.

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