From Staff Reports
BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has begun tracking West Nile virus cases for the 2013 season.
Officials remind Marylanders to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites in order to prevent the virus.
The number of human cases in Maryland has varied over the past several years.
In 2003, the peak year, 73 human cases were reported statewide.
The number of human cases declined for several years afterward, ranging between one and 23 cases from 2004 through 2011.
However, health officials documented significant increases in human cases in 2012, with 47 cases reported in Maryland and more than 5,600 cases reported nationwide.
Upon confirmation of the first West Nile virus human case or positive mosquito pool, DHMH will begin to post weekly reports of virus activity on the department’s website. The reports will be available each Wednesday at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/west-nile.aspx.
“The number of West Nile cases we will see in any given year is unpredictable, so we encourage everyone to take some simple actions to avoid mosquito bites,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, state public health veterinarian at DHMH.
Measures people can take to protect themselves include:
• Avoid areas of high mosquito activity.
• Avoid unnecessary outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when concerned about mosquito exposure.
• Use an EPA-registered insect repellent according to package directions.
Most individuals infected with the virus will not have any symptoms. People that do develop illness will usually have any combination of fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms generally appear three to 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito. Less than 1 percent of people exposed to the virus will develop more severe infections with symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. In rare instances, the virus can be fatal. People over 50 years of age have the highest risk of developing more severe disease.