(RxWiki News) Making the effort to protect yourself from mosquito bites might do much more than just prevent an annoying itch; it might also help prevent an illness experienced by hundreds of people across the US this summer.
According to the latest data made available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 696 cases of the West Nile virus have been discovered across the US so far in 2013.
CDC recommends that people take steps to protect themselves from the insect bites.
"Repair windows and screen doors to help keep mosquitos out."
So far in 2013, 47 states and the District of Columbia have discovered West Nile infections in either humans, birds or mosquitos, reported CDC.
According to CDC, around 70 to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile do not experience any symptoms. About one in five people will experience symptoms like headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.
"Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months," says CDC.
In rare cases (less than 1 percent of infected people), the infected person can develop neuroinvasive symptoms like encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the areas surrounding the brain or spinal cord). Symptoms can include headache, high fever, stiffness of the neck, confusion, coma, seizures or paralysis.
Of the nearly 700 cases reported this year, 327 (47 percent) have been classified as neuroinvasive disease. The remaining 369 cases (53 percent) were considered non-neuroinvasive disease.
The West Nile infections have led to 28 deaths during 2013. The state of California has experienced the most deaths (six).
Colorado has so far reported the most cases, with 120 infections, and California is close behind with 117 reported infections. South Dakota has reported 87.
CDC suggests a number of steps that can help protect against West Nile virus, including wearing long sleeves and long pants from dusk until dawn, when mosquitos are most active.
"Use insect repellents when you go outdoors," suggested CDC. "Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon, eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection."
CDC also recommends installing or repairing screen doors or windows to keep the bugs out of the home, or keeping windows closed and relying on air conditioning when possible.
Emptying standing water from around the home can also help, as these places are favorite breeding spots for mosquitos. Containers like pet water dishes, flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, discarded tires and birdbaths can all fill with standing water and should be emptied.
Those who think they might be ill with West Nile should contact their healthcare provider.