Symptoms of West Nile virus can vary - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Deadly West Nile virus epidemic sweeping nation

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West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes bites. (Source: Shutterstock) West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes bites. (Source: Shutterstock)
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(RNN) - Mosquitoes have long been a summer nuisance but now they could be the carriers of a deadly disease.

West Nile virus, transmitted by the biting insects and carried by birds, is sweeping across several states and according to the Centers for Disease Control the disease has claimed dozens of lives this summer.

The CDC said 41 people have died so far this season, and 1,118 have contracted the illness.

According to the CDC, 75 percent of the cases have occurred in five states: Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Dakota. But because you don't live in these states doesn't mean you aren't in danger. Outbreaks are possible anywhere in the U.S. at this time of year.

There is no vaccine for the virus.

Symptoms

West Nile virus can have a myriad symptoms, but about four out of five of those who catch the disease will have no symptoms at all.

But about 20 percent will develop fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, occasional skin rashes and swollen lymph glands.

The most severe cases can cause coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis as the virus attacks the nervous system.

Those most at risk are the elderly and the young. Most people recover on their own, which can take days to weeks.

The CDC says anyone who experiences a high fever with headaches should see their doctor right away.

Prevention

The best method of prevention is to stop mosquito bites.

WFAA in Dallas reported that Texas counties and cities like Dallas have resorted to spraying pesticides in the air, on the ground and in standing water to kill the insects. This drastic solution comes with a downside - the city sent employees to hose down all of its public parks and are warning residents to be careful using public drinking fountains because of the pesticides.

There are ways for individuals to protect themselves as well.

"Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Generally, the more active ingredient a repellent contains the longer it can protect you from mosquito bites," the CDC said in a statement.

Repellants containing DEET are the most recommended by experts, which should be applied according to label instructions.

Other ways to prevent mosquito bites, the CDC said, are to wear long sleeves and pants, stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, use mosquito netting over baby carriers and install or repair window and door screens to keep the insects outside.

To keep mosquitos from breeding near your home, the CDC said to once a week empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans, or any other outdoor container. It's also a good idea to check for clogged drains or gutters and remove discarded items that can collect water.

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