Water Quality and West Nile Surveillance Program

Why have a Water Quality program?

Water Quality programs and services are based on:

  1. Identifying and controlling all water bore disease.
  2. Providing drinkable (potable) water to all barracks, facilities, recreation and food operations on JBLM.
  3. Maintaining base facilities to reduce the spread of any water-borne diseases.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since then WNV has been detected in all of the lower 48 states. In many areas, virus infected mosquitoes or birds can be detected by late May; about one month prior to any human involvement with the disease. Many different mosquitoes have tested positive for WNV, but only a few types of mosquitoes are considered competent vectors of this disease.

How do people and animals get it?

West Nile virus (WNV) is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. You can reduce your risk of being infected with WNV by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing to prevent mosquito bites. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.

The typical transmission cycle involves only birds and mosquitoes. Birds can become infected when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes. People and other animals may also contract WNV if bitten by an infected mosquito, but virus levels remain too low to perpetuate the cycle and these hosts are considered incidental or dead end. People can also contract WNV when receiving blood products or organs from WNV infected persons. In 2003, a blood testing program was initiated to screen blood products.

What are the symptoms and treatment for it?

  • Symptoms and signs include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands.
  • Severe symptoms may include stiff neck, sleepiness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, and paralysis.
  • Most cases of West Nile virus are mild and go unreported.
  • The virus is carried from infected birds to people by mosquitoes.
  • There is no evidence for transmission from person to person.
  • A key feature of West Nile virus disease is encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

It is estimated that one in 150 people who are infected with the WNV will require hospitalization. Of the most serious encephalitis cases, approximately 3-15 % may be fatal.

Horses may also be adversely affected by WNV. Symptoms for horses include:

Stumbling, circling, hind leg weakness, inability to stand, muscle tremors

There are no medications to treat or vaccines available for people to prevent WNV infection. As with other viral illnesses, supportive care is given. There is a vaccine available for horses. All horses boarded on military installations require WNV vaccinations.

How can I protect myself?

  • Get rid of any standing water
  • Empty water of out buckets, old tires, and other outdoor containers and debris.
  • Report standing water to facilities engineers or local health officials.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. Keep good tight-fitting screens on your windows and doors. Close all doors when not in use.
  • Wear a mosquito repellent such as DEET, see the Centers for Disease Control for additional information on options or questions.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing with sleeves rolled down and pants tucked into socks especially during evening hours.
  • Minimize time spent outdoors during early morning or evening hours.
  • Soldiers may contact Environmental Health Service or Public Health Command for guidance on protection during field operations.

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