Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus: Your Complete Guide to Staying Safe this Summer

West Nile Virus is a country-wide problem—do you know how to protect yourself?

The summer season brings many joys, especially for those of us who love the great outdoors, but the warm weather also comes with a few dangers.

The teeny tiny nuisances, mosquitoes are most often associated with an annoying buzz, an undetected bite and then an ensuing itch that seems to last for weeks. The urge to scratch isn’t all you need to worry about, though; mosquitoes can be more than harmless pests. Like many bugs, mosquitoes have the ability to carry and transmit disease and they thrive in the summer months.

One of the most notable and feared diseases is West Nile Virus. Most cases occur from June through September, according to the CDC, and though most people don’t experience any symptoms at all, a very small number (less than 1 percent) die from complications brought on by West Nile Virus.

It’s hard to say which areas of the country will be hit hardest and it’s tough to predict how bad the outbreak will be each year, as it changes from year to year. With the start of summer, though, you should know about mosquitoes, West Nile Virus and how to protect yourself. We consulted the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) for everything you need to know about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus this summer season.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is typically spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. While most people with the virus don’t experience any symptoms, about 20 percent of those infected experience symptoms ranging in severity from a fever and headache to life threatening inflammation of the brain. The number of reported cases and the outbreak areas change significantly from year to year, made worse by unusually warm weather.

Who is at Risk?

According to the CDC
, “Anyone living in an area where West Nile virus is present in mosquitoes can get infected.” The virus has been found in every state in the continental U.S. and outbreaks have been happening in the country every summer since 1999. “The risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities because of greater exposure to mosquitoes.” The map from the CDC shows West Nile Virus cases reported so far this season, the dark green shade represents human infections.

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