State Health Officials Urge Md. Residents To Take Precautions Against West Nile Virus

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A warning is being issued to beware of bugs this summer. State health officials are urging Maryland residents to take precaution to protect themselves from mosquitoes which could be carrying diseases like the West Nile Virus.

Derek Valcourt explains, the state has begun their yearly effort to track West Nile Virus cases.

There have already been cases reported in nearby Virginia and Pennsylvania. Though none have been detected in Maryland yet, experts say it’s just a matter of time.

Living near the woods, the Zuskin family residing in Pikesville know all too well how bad the mosquitoes can get at dusk.

“I can get so you can see them just flying in front of your face. The bugs have been really crazy this summer,” said Lauren Zuskin.

Just last wee a walk in the woods left little Ellie Zuskin scratching from head to toe.

“There were bites all over me and I rummaged through the bathroom drawer to put cream on my bug bites cause they were big and red,” she said.

Not just a nuisance, those bites can make you sick. Mosquito’s can carry diseases like West Nile Virus, which in some places can cause fever, headaches, rashes, and swollen glands. State health officials say in rare cases, it could lead to death.

“It’s usually adults age 50 an older that are at highest risk of that,” said Kim Mitchell with the Maryland Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene.

The best protection is to wear EPA registered insect repellent and to cover any exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and long pants. You should avoid spending time outdoors at mosquito’s peak active hours usually around dusk and dawn. Most importantly remove any standing water that has collected in your yard.

Gutters, birdbaths, kids toys, flower pots and garbage cans can all be ideal breeding grounds where mosquito larva can thrive. Even in the tiniest amounts of water.

“It takes very little to start growing your own mosquito’s in your backyard,” said Mitchell.

The Zuskin’s follow all the rules, but mom Lauren knows protecting her kids from insects so small can be tricky.

“I try to keep him covered but he’s a little boy in the summer, and it’s hard. But I worry about the bites,” said Lauren Zuskin.

Last year West Nile Virus infected 16 people in Maryland, one of them died.

Officials are also warning about another serious mosquito borne disease, chikungunya. The disease is common throughout the Caribbean islands. Anyone who has recently visited there and now experiencing fever and severe joint pain is urged to see their doctors right away.

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