The Dangers of Spring Cleaning

13 03 2013

spring-cleaning1Spring is nearly here. Does your yard beckon, displaying fast-growing weeds and frumpy foliage?

Mine calls to me, along with the garage, all of the windows, the closets, and every surface that is bespeckled with dust.

If you can’t fight the urge to clean, beware of the risks (you knew this was coming). If, however, you can resist the urge, feel free to use this list in your defense, should your SO wave a rake or sponge your way.

I can’t clean or do yard work . . .

—until I get my tetanus shot. Rusty nails, hoes, and rakes that are pokey and dirty, debris blown onto the yard from winter storms—they’re just waiting for me. (Swap out this Td shot for a one-time Tdap shot, get protected against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.)

—because I saw mouse poop in the garage and I don’t want to get hantavirus by sweeping up those virus-laden bits. I have delicate airways. (There are safe ways to clean up mouse droppings, but the SO doesn’t need to know that.)

—as long as there are mosquitoes in this world. West Nile virus is everywhere! And I can’t wear mosquito repellent while doing yard work because it smells funny, although that’s not the case when I’m kayaking. Strange.

—while ticks live in this world. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever—these are all insidious infections brought on by ticks. I believe I saw a tick on the bathroom wall last week. Possibly it hitched a ride on the dog, which shook it off while in the bathroom. I really have no other explanation.

These excuses are reasonable and clear. If your SO is having trouble swallowing understanding them, feel free to share our contact info.

By Trish Parnell

Those Rotten Mosquitos!

6 08 2012

West Nile virus is busy this year, with 241 cases and four deaths reported.

Mosquitos are the carriers of this disease, and we all know the mosquito population has exploded this summer. It is possible to transmit West Nile virus (WNV) in other ways, such as through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, or even during pregnancy from mother to baby, but the risk for those types of transmissions is small.

No one wants WNV, so the first thing to do is prevent mosquito bites.

Use insect repellent, and reapply it periodically – read the directions on the can.

Look around your property – if there’s any standing water, drain it. Mosquitos love to breed in still waters.

Mosquitos were getting in our house in the evenings. After a couple of hours of investigation, we discovered a gap in a screen where they were getting through. Check every door and window in your home for openings.

There is no vaccine for humans, but research is ongoing.

Most people who are infected with WNV experience no symptoms, but for some, infection can cause fever, headache, nausea, coma, paralysis and other serious problems.

There is no treatment specific to WNV. If you become infected, your symptoms will be treated.

Be aware that mosquitos carry more than WNV. They also carry and transmit dengue, various viral diseases that cause encephalitis, malaria, yellow fever, and Rift Valley fever.

Contact your city or county to find out what they’re doing to reduce the mosquito population. If they’re not doing enough, rally your neighbors to add their voices to yours in asking that action be taken.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of LoloTahiti

A Camping We Will Go!

2 06 2011

Headed for the woods this summer? Danger lurks ‘neath leafed canopies and waits in sparkling streams. And we’re not talking snakes, here.

Mosquitoes, however, do make the naughty list. Some will taste your blood and leave West Nile virus in exchange. Ticks may come bearing Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever with their bites.

The sparkling, bubbling stream near your tent may be bursting with the parasite Giardia intestinalis, or any number of other nasties you don’t want to ingest. (Giardiasis is a form of diarrhea you’ll never forget.)

Taking a tumble while gamboling about the woods can leave you open to infection – possibly tetanus. If the family isn’t vaccinated, tetanus can be contracted through soil exposure to a cut.

Have you been put off the idea of camping?  Don’t leave the tent in the box – just slather on insect repellent, purify that water before drinking, and keep your hands and skin scrapes clean.

Taking a few precautions will keep your campers happy around the fire. Just save us some s’mores, won’t ya?!

West Nile Virus – Blech

24 05 2010

Summer dreams…. cool lakes, dusty back roads, sleepy morning breezes, disease-carrying mosquitoes…

Yep, they’re a bubble burster alright.

Mosquitoes are back, and so is West Nile virus (WNV). It was first identified in Africa in 1937, and made its way to New York in the summer of 1999.It’s pretty much all over the country now.

Remember when WNV dominated the news, and we were told not to touch dead birds? Well, as it turns out, WNV transmission is through mosquitoes that bite infected birds, carry the virus in their saliva, and then bite humans or animals.

There are other forms of transmission, including through organ transplants and blood transfusions. Transmission from mother to unborn child and through breast milk is possible, although CDC says the chances are so remote, one should not stop breastfeeding because of risk of WNV infection.

For the most part, WNV is pretty benign, with few or no symptoms. The incubation period is 3 to 14 days.  Of those infected, 20% may develop West Nile fever, which can cause flu-like symptoms and lasts less than a week.

In fewer than 1% of those infected, WNV is a severe neurological infection that can cause lasting damage or even death.

It’s possible to become infected through transfusions or transplantation. Donated blood is screened for seven infectious agents, including WNV. The complication that arises is the lack of consistency and standardization in screening blood for WNV, as logistics play a role in the process. Protocols may be more rigorous in areas where WNV is more prevalent. The more sensitive testing is costly and time-consuming.

Then there’s screening of donated organs. Time and test sensitivity are factors. Do the risks of an organ potentially infected with WNV outweigh the benefit of the time necessary to test a donated organ for WNV?  Should a standardized protocol be utilized, or should WNV geographic prevalence play a role in determining protocols? And finally, should recipients have a choice in accepting organs that are potentially infected with WNV, without testing?

There are no certain answers to these questions.

Prevention of WNV is what you would suspect:  limiting your exposure to mosquitoes by wearing protective clothing or mosquito repellent, and by eliminating breeding areas. Check out this tool and find the perfect repellent that meets your needs! In addition to repellent, make sure you follow these suggestions to minimize your exposure to WNV-carrying mosquitoes:

  • Install/repair screens on doors and windows
  • Get rid of standing water on or near your property
  • Try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are prevalent