By Daniel Stapleton
Public Health Director
Niagara County Department of Health
The Niagara County Department of Health places the health and safety of our communities as our No. 1 priority. Informing our communities of risks, in combination with education, is one of the most essential elements of protection against injury and disease.
Each year, we strive to educate the public about the dangers of West Nile virus, and actions each of us can take to reduce the risk of infection. Most people infected with West Nile virus will experience mild or no symptoms at all. However, some individuals may develop severe or fatal complications, tragic outcomes that can be prevented through education about exposure prevention.
West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Testing conducted in areas of Niagara County has resulted in no West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes to date. The Niagara County Department of Health will continue testing mosquito pools throughout Niagara County for the remainder of the season.
Mild signs and symptoms of West Nile virus infection include fever, headache, body aches and, occasionally, a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Rarely, infected individuals may develop severe signs and symptoms, including high fever, headache, neck stiffness and neurological problems.
People most at risk for developing West Nile virus include those of advanced age, or with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
People in our communities can take action to prevent West Nile virus infections by first eliminating sources of stagnant water around their homes where mosquitoes breed. Additionally:
•Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
•Empty, clean and replace fresh water in birdbaths daily.
•Remove all discarded tires on the property.
•Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters.
•Empty and turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows after use.
•Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds and keep shrubs and grass trimmed.
•Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, and cover when not in use.
•Drain water from pool covers.
Another important step is to not get bitten. To prevent mosquitoes from biting:
•Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
•Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time.
•Use mosquito repellent when outdoors, following label directions carefully.
•Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and are in good repair.
Mosquitoes will continue to be a problem until the weather changes with the first hard frost. Until then, the Health Department and the communities we serve can work together. With a common sense approach to West Nile virus risk reduction, we can assure a safe and healthy environment by taking simple steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and biting.
Note: The Niagara County Department of Health has been notified a skunk submitted for rabies testing from Quaker Road in the Town of Somerset was positive for rabies virus. This is the sixth rabid animal confirmed in the county in 2015. As rabies season is upon us, the Niagara County Department of Health would like to remind county residents to take precautions to prevent exposure to rabies from wildlife and domestic animals.