Facts you should know about West Nile
The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease previously seen only in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. In 1999, an unexpected outbreak of WNV occurred in New York City. In 2000, the virus spread east and south, causing 21 human cases of WNV encephalitis in the United States including two deaths. The virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis, which inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Infected mosquitos spread the WNV.
The Ohio Department of Health reports that in Ohio, birds and mosquitoes first tested positive for WNV in 2001, and the first human case occurred in 2002. In 2002, an epidemic of WNV occurred in Cuyahoga County with 221 confirmed cases. In 2007, only 23 cases were reported statewide with only 15 reported in 2008.
The Center for Disease Control reports that even in areas where mosquitoes have been tested and are found to carry the virus, very few mosquitoes - less than 1% - are infected. If a mosquito is infected, less than 1% of the people who are bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances of becoming severely ill from any mosquito bite are extremely small.
Cleveland Metroparks is adopting a proactive policy regarding the WNV. The Park District is actively cooperating with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) which are leading the efforts in managing this issue. Cleveland Metroparks will participate with the CCBH and the ODH to monitor mosquitoes.
Healthy wetlands, like those found in Cleveland Metroparks do not provide ideal breeding sites for the type of mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus - Culex pipiens. Natural populations of predators (fish & amphibians) and parasites control larval mosquito populations. Flowing or standing water with "wave or ripple action" serves as a poor breeding site for Culex mosquitoes.
Sites that hold standing water like tire ruts and receptacles such as retention basins, discarded tires, roof gutters, bird baths, and outdoor pots, attract and serve as prime breeding areas for Culex pipiens because those catchments hold few natural predators. Cleveland Metroparks will make every effort to minimize these breeding sites by recycling trash promptly and reducing or eliminating any management activities that produce tire ruts or depressions.
Additional information on West Nile Virus activity, disease prevention, symptoms, and diagnosis can be found at the Ohio Department of Health website and at the Centers for Disease control website.