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41 Dead in West Nile Outbreak: How to Protect Yourself

Friday, 24 Aug 2012 11:21 AM


With planes taking to the sky to spray insecticides in the states worst hit by West Nile virus, a top doctor is urging people not to panic but instead take common-sense steps to protect themselves against the deadly mosquito-borne illness.

“With West Nile virus so pervasive, this is probably our largest outbreak ever,” Dr. Alan Christianson told Newsmax Health. The virus has appeared in 47 U.S. states, with Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont so far escaping. It has caused 1,118 human cases and 41 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Five states have reported about 75 percent of the cases, with Texas being worst hit, followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

But, while the death toll is alarming, it is important to remember that “the vast majority of people who get bitten show no symptoms, and even those with symptoms usually don’t get seriously sick. It’s very rare for the virus to cause a major illness,” said Dr. Christianson, a naturopathic physician from Scottsdale, Ariz., who regularly appears on The Today Show and other major news outlets.

One effective way to protect against the West Nile virus is to eradicate areas of standing water, which draw the insects. “Mosquitoes thrive in humidity, and they don't tend to travel very far, so minimizing these areas will help a lot,” he says.

Here are his other recommendations for protecting yourself:

• Eat foods that make your blood unappetizing to mosquitoes. “Some people get bitten more than others,” notes Dr. Christianson. It is thought that metabolic factors account for this difference, and that mosquitoes are drawn to people who have more cholesterol and higher uric acid, factors that can be lowered by eating a plant-based, low-sugar diet. Of course, having a barbecue, with lots of grilled, high-fat meats, is probably the best way to attract mosquitoes, so he suggests loading up on salads, beans, and grilling chicken instead of red meat.
• Get enough Vitamin D. “People who are concerned about West
Nile virus may tend to stay indoors, which could deplete their body's supply of vitamin D,” notes Dr. Christianson. Vitamin D, which is also known as the sunshine vitamin, is thought to repel mosquitoes, so getting enough of this vitamin can help. “In addition, you can take 1,000-2,000 units of supplemental Vitamin D,” he noted. Vitamin B supplements were thought in the past to protective against mosquitoes, but recent studies show they do not help.
• Use a natural, non-toxic pesticide. The active ingredient in many
insect repellants is DEET, a substance Dr. Christianson says should be avoided. Instead, he recommends using oil of lemon and eucalyptus, or the synthesized version, PMD, which is endorsed by the CDC as an effective mosquito repellant. Other substances that may be effective include are citronella (either burned or sprayed), and a NEEM, a medicinal oil used in Ayurvedic medicine.
• Wear protective clothing. “Lightweight clothing forms a barrier against
mosquitoes, but you can now buy clothing which has a repellent embedded in it which is also very effective,” says Dr. Christianson.

Above all, don't use fear of mosquitoes as an excuse to stay indoors, and be sedentary. “Most people are much more likely to die of chronic diseases caused by lack of activity than West Nile,” Dr. Christianson said.





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