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New Survey Finds More Than Half of Americans Concerned About West Nile Virus
National Pest Management Association finds people are changing behaviors in wake of epidemic
According to a new survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 54 percent of Americans are concerned about West Nile Virus (WNV), a serious and potentially fatal disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and 22 percent took more steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes this year than in years past. The survey findings come as one of the most severe WNV seasons on record — since the virus was first detected in the United States in 1999 — slowly winds down. According to industry experts, mosquito season typically flares up in the summer and lasts well into fall.
As of September 25, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 3,545 cases and 147 deaths as a result of the mosquito-borne illness. By comparison, there were 712 total cases and 43 deaths in 2011.
Additional survey findings:
- Sixty-one percent of women compared to 47 percent of men are more concerned about WNV.
- More than 60 percent of the 45-64 and 65 and older age groups are more concerned about WNV than those in the 18-34 and 35-44 age groups.
- Residents in the South are the most concerned about WNV (61 percent), followed by residents in the Northeast (52 percent), residents in the Midwest (51 percent) and residents in the West (48 percent).
- Similarly, residents in the South took more precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes this summer compared to previous year (33 percent) than residents in other regions; Northeast (26 percent), West (13 percent); Midwest (7 percent).
- About one-third (34 percent) of Americans felt that mosquitoes were worse this year than in years past. More than half (52 percent) of those in the South and 41 percent of those in the Northeast felt that way.
“This year’s unprecedented West Nile Virus epidemic and the alarming amount of fatalities are worrisome for health and pest experts alike. Our members have received increased calls from homeowners to assist them with mosquito elimination in their back yards and this survey clearly shows the elevated concern experienced by much of the American population,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at NPMA. “The good news is that mosquito activity will naturally decrease over the next few weeks as the weather cools in much of the country and adult mosquitoes die off.”
“This year’s West Nile Virus season is one for the record books and it has put a lot of people on alert to heed the warnings about adequate mosquito prevention in the future,” said Dr. Jorge Parada, infectious disease specialist and NPMA’s medical spokesperson. “Although all age groups are susceptible to the virus, people over the age of 50 should be particularly cautious and take steps to avoid mosquitoes as they are more vulnerable to the infection.”
According to Dr. Parada about four out of five people infected with West Nile Virus will have no symptoms at all, while one in five people develop mild symptoms, including fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen glands or a skin rash. The most severe reactions occur in one in about 150 (less than 1 percent) of cases results in severe symptoms which can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, vision problems, weakness, numbness and paralysis.
“Although it’s much too early to make predictions about next year’s mosquito season, it’s important to remember that mosquitoes have several overwintering strategies to ensure the survival of future generations. Adult mosquito populations will decline in coming weeks, but their offspring will surely come for us next spring,” added Henriksen.
Mosquitoes overwinter in a number of ways – eggs, larvae and pupa. The eggs typically hatch in the early spring and can easily survive a cold snap after they hatch. Additionally, eggs of floodwater mosquitoes can remain viable up to seven years.
The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.