KDHE recommends mosquito bite prevention over the Fourth of July weekend to stop West Nile virus

Greg Williams
Butler County Times Gazette
Mosquito testing for EEE and WNV has begun in Massachusetts.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) recommends Kansans take preventive measures against mosquito bites over the Fourth of July holiday. Five of six regions are now considered 'high' risk areas for the West Nile virus. 

Mosquito surveillance in Reno, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties has shown an increase in Culex mosquitos, which can spread West Nile virus and other viruses that can affect humans an hourses. This species of mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk.

West Nile virus can be spread to people through bites from infected mosquitoes but it's not contagious from person to person. Symptoms range from a slight headache and low-grade fever to swelling of the brain or brain tissue and, in rare cases, death. 

Since 2002 there have been 692 cases and 35 deaths in Kansans from West Nile virus. People who have had the West Nile virus before are considered immune. 

KDHE has developed West Nile virus risk levels to help guide prevention efforts for both communities and individuals. The risk levels are updated weekly on the KDHE website from mid-May to October.

More:Latest Butler County COVID-19 update shows lowest monthly case total since June 2020

West Nile Virus Risk Level and Surveillance Results

KDHE recommends the following precautions to protect against the West Nile virus:

  • When outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient on skin and clothing, including DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.
  • Many mosquitoes are active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times to consider staying indoors.
  • The elderly or immunocompromised should consider limiting their exposure outside during dusk and dawn when the Culex species mosquitos are most active.
  • Make sure you have a good screen on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. 
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in birdbaths 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.

People should protect their horses as the West Nile virus in horses can be fatal. The virus can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Approximately 33% of horses infected with the West Nile virus will die. 

A West Nile virus vaccine for horses is available and owners are encouraged to vaccinate or booster their animals. In addition, these mosquitoes can transmit heartworms to dogs. Contact your veterinarian to discuss heartworm prevention for your dogs. 

For questions about the West Nile virus or other arboviral diseases, contact the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline at 877-427-7317.