No need to be in denial over West Nile

August 27, 2004

The message about protecting yourself from West Nile virus seems to

be this: Use DEET and watch for any symptoms. Somehow those

instructions never seem to satisfy.

DEET? Really? Didn't they outlaw that? Or was that DDT? In fact,

that was DDT. DEET has been deemed safe by the Environmental

Protection Agency.

According to the EPA, as long as consumers follow label directions


and take proper precaution DEET won't hurt them. But users do have to

take care. The EPA instructs: Avoid over-application of this product.

After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Wash

treated clothing before wearing it again. Use of this product may

cause skin reactions in rare cases.

You can check out its website if you need some convincing:


But chemicals sprayed all over your body or your kids' bodies?


A more disturbing description of DEET is laid out online at

tips/tip_20031104165954698. If you subscribe to the

the-less-chemicals-the-better point of view, there are several

natural mosquito repellents to look into. Some are listed on


OK, so now you've protected yourself. But your 5-year-old has a

fever and is achy too. What to do?

Most people infected with West Nile will never know. Sometimes

mild symptoms appear but go away on their own. It's when the more

severe symptoms appear that it's time to see the doctor.

"See the doctor if the fever lasts for more than four or five

days," said Dr. Brian Lo, a doctor of internal medicine from South

Coast Medical Center. "Viral flu doesn't last more than four or five


Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, body aches,

occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body, and swollen lymph

glands. A more serious case could include stupor, disorientation,

coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Lo also said that if a person is acting abnormal or lethargic,

they should be brought to the hospital.

Dr. William Anderson at the Urgent Care in Laguna Beach agreed

that if a child is not acting normally, not eating or drinking

properly, that is the time to bring them in.

But it isn't necessarily a doctor's first priority to determine if

a patient is suffering from West Nile virus. For Anderson, the first

plan of action is to alleviate the symptoms.

If a virus, flu or West Nile is causing a high fever, headache,

neck stiffness, lack of proper nutrition, it is the symptoms that

need immediate attention, not the cause.

Fortunately, it seems that whether you know if you've been

infected with West Nile, you'll likely know that you need to see the

doctor. And like the flu, there are a set of people more susceptible

to the virus -- those who have a condition that suppress the immune

system, have had recent chemotherapy or an organ transplantation,

have HIV, are pregnant, or are elderly.

The good news is, there's no need to live in fear. Protect

yourself and trust yourself to know if you need to give that doctor

or call.

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