It’s that time of year again when the mosquitoes start biting. And that brings the issue of West Nile virus into the forefront of people’s minds yet again.
The West Nile virus was discovered in the West Nile area of Uganda in 1937 and then spread to the Mediterranean and temperate parts of Europe. In 1960, it was observed in horses in Egypt and France. Between the 1950s and 1999, there were sporadic epidemics in Israel, South Africa, Romania and in Russia. In September 2002, infectious disease specialists in Ontario began seeing West Nile patients.
How common is West Nile in Canada?
In 2005, there were 236 cases of West Nile in Canada. In September 2008, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the number of human cases to that point in the year totalled 29. Does that mean the problem is fading? Researchers can’t say for sure. However, federal and provincial agencies are monitoring birds and mosquitoes and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, veterinarians and other members of the animal health community across the country monitor for infection in domestic animals. Most communities now have spraying programs in place to deal with standing water; the place where mosquitoes breed and hatch.
Symptoms of West Nile are usually mild and include:
- body aches
- sometimes skin rash, and
- swollen lymph glands.
Severe infection is marked by:
- high fever
- neck stiffness
- stupor, disorientation, and/or
- tremors, convulsions, coma and/or paralysis.
Anyone noticing these symptoms within 2-4 days of a mosquito bite should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How To Fool A Mosquito
There are simple, effective steps you can take to reduce your risk of being infected with the West Nile virus once you understand what the mosquitoes are looking for.
Mosquitoes have complex methods of detecting targets and different types of mosquitoes react to different stimuli. You can avoid being bitten by making sure you aren’t attracting mosquitoes, using attractants to lure mosquitoes elsewhere, using a repellent, and avoiding actions that diminish the effectiveness of the repellent, for example, swimming.
- Don’t wear dark clothing – many mosquitoes use vision to locate targets from a distance. Dark clothes and foliage are initial attractants.
- Towel off after exercising — mosquitoes are attracted by perspiration because of the chemicals it contains.
- Get rid of all standing water around your property, including puddles after the rain or any water that might collect on your outdoor screen room roof.
- Minimize your time outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved tops and long pants if you are spending any time outdoors during these hours.
- Make sure the door and window screens of your home fit securely.
- Use a recommended mosquito repellent spray or lotion and apply as directed.
- Use a mosquito repellent candle or some type of repellent/attractant device in the outside areas you frequent the most.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we breathe out. However, a burning candle also gives off carbon dioxide. Place burning candles away from your seating area to lure the mosquitoes in the other direction. Mosquitoes are also attracted to floral or fruity fragrances so choose candles with no scent or that are citronella-based if you’re going to have them close by.
If you wish to try natural oils rather than a product containing DEET, try using the following. But remember to reapply if you’ve been swimming or exercising heavily. Also, many sunscreens lower a repellent’s effectiveness. Repellents also evaporate in the wind or high temperatures.
- Citronella Oil
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- Castor Oil
- Rosemary Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Cedar Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Clove Oil
- Geranium Oil
- Possibly Oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajeput, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic.
Another plant-derived substance, pyrethrum, is an insecticide. Pyrethrum comes from the flowers of the daisy Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium.
It has been said, but not scientifically proven, that by increasing your ingestion of garlic, the odor seeps through your skin and repels mosquitoes. Although this might be effective, it may also repel your friends!
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 9 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.