Message from Student Health Center Director Linda Reid Chassiakos:The West Nile virus has arrived in Southern California. Fortunately, Cal State Northridge's community can protect itself if it "fights the bite."
Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to stay healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus is passed from infected birds to mosquitoes, which can in turn infect humans.
CSUN's Environmental Health and Safety Department has led a campus-wide effort since last June to inspect and repair or remove potential mosquito breeding areas, such as standing water. Unfortunately, mosquitoes can still fly in from the surrounding neighborhood, so it is important for everyone on campus to continue using bite-preventing precautions.
Not everyone bitten by an infected mosquito will become ill. In fact, three quarters of humans infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms at all. Fortunately, the virus does not spread from person to person, so if someone becomes infected, he or she is not "contagious" to other people.
About one in seven people infected by a mosquito develops flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches or a rash within three to 14 days after the infecting bite. In such cases, especially after a mosquito bite, it is a good idea to see a doctor, who can send a blood sample to be tested for the virus.
There is no medicine that can cure West Nile. Most victims fully recover with only supportive care, but one in 100 victims--usually the very young, those over 50, and those without good immune system function--may develop more serious complications such as encephalitis, a life-threatening inflammation of the covering around the brain. Unfortunately, those who develop these complications may suffer brain damage or death despite intensive hospital care.
A vaccine to protect horses from West Nile does exist, but there is not yet a vaccine for humans, so prevention of mosquito bites is critical. Mosquitoes most commonly bite at dusk, dawn, and through the night, but occasionally during daytime as well. The risk of mosquito bites can be reduced by wearing long-sleeved clothing when outdoors and by using mosquito repellent with DEET on exposed skin. Mosquito repellent is available at drug stores or for a small charge at the Student Health Center pharmacy.
The university's Environmental Health and Safety Department has been working closely with Physical Plant Management (PPM) to identify and remove all dead birds on our grounds. Anyone spotting a dead bird on campus should call (818) 677-2222 and give the bird's location. No one should touch the bird; the trained PPM team will come immediately to remove it safely.
At home, rubber gloves or a thick plastic garbage bag can be used to grab a dead bird, which should be placed in a plastic garbage bag. After sealing the bag, it should be placed in the trash. It is no longer required to report dead birds to the county Health Department.
For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites and how to mosquito-proof your home, go to www.csun.edu/studenthealthcenter/hottopics.htm or www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm
@csun | August 23, 2004 issue
Public Relations | University Advancement
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