Anastasia Mosquito Control District Director Rudy Xue reported to Historic City News that officials have confirmed the presence of West Nile virus in St. Johns County.
As elementary as it may sound, Anastasia Mosquito Control District keeps “sentinel chickens” around the county as part of their early detection system. While making an inspection off County Road 13 on Joe Ashton Road on Wednesday, the potentially deadly virus was discovered.
Xue said the virus is likely to “spread very quickly” and that he expects to find more infected sentinel chickens in the next week or two.
“If mosquitoes are still flying there is still a danger from West Nile virus,” according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Mosquito season does not end until November.
Infected mosquitoes spread West Nile virus that can cause serious, life-altering, and even fatal disease.
“Keep using insect repellent, wear long sleeves and long pants and dump out standing water in the yard where mosquitoes can lay their eggs,” Xue cautioned.
The CDC says to use mosquito repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin (KBR 3023) — which they report typically provides longer-lasting protection than other products. And, in case you prefer a plant-based mosquito repellent, oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane-3,8-diol) provides longer lasting protection than others, according to CDC reports.
Although Duval County has confirmed 17 cases of the virus, including two deaths, this is the first known instance locally this year. No reports of human infection with West Nile virus have been documented locally, according to information from the Anastasia Mosquito Control District.
About 4 out of 5 people who are infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms at all, making the infection extremely difficult to diagnose. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. They are often misdiagnosed with the flu.
Symptoms can last for as short as a few days — although even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
According to Xue, the disease can become serious in people of any age, but people older than 50, and those with weaker immune systems, are at the greatest risk.