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Aug 172012

© 2003 Joyce Gross

What is it?

West Nile Virus is a potentially serious illness, with approximately 1 in 150 infected individuals developing WNV meningitis or encephalitis. Although the Centers for Disease Control estimates that four in five infected people will show no signs at all, severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Among milder symptoms are fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back.

How is it spread?

Although humans can feasibly spread the disease among one another through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding, and even between mother and fetus, WNV is typically transmitted from infected birds to humans via disease-carrying mosquitoes. Hundreds of species of birds can be infected with WNV.


Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles © California Academy of Sciences

What steps can you take in your garden to minimize your risk?

According to the National Audubon Society, the best way to reduce the presence of WNV in your neighborhood is to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your yard:

  • Discard old tires and aluminum cans and drill drainage holes in the bottoms of items in which water collects.
  • Prevent water from accumulating in flowerpots or barrels and on swimming pool and boat covers.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every 3-4 days (some experts recommend every 48 hours).
  • Clean roof gutters, clean and chlorinate swimming pools, and turn over wheelbarrows and plastic wading pools when you’re not using them.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Fill water-collecting tree cavities with soil or sand.
  • Alter your landscaping to eliminate standing water.

For more information on WNV, visit:

 August 17, 2012