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Virginia doctor shares ‘best bet’ in preventing mosquito-borne viruses

RICHMOND, Va. -- With the recent amount of heavy rain, and now much warmer temperatures, the threat of mosquitoes is now upon Central Virginia. The threat of mosquito-borne viruses is also a concern for physicians who handle infectious diseases.

Dr. Sarika Tripathi, an infectious disease expert with Johnston Willis Hospital, says she starts to see cases of mosquito-borne illnesses in May.

"Mostly with mosquito-borne illnesses here in Virginia, we have viral infections such as West Nile infection, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Lacrosse Virus," Tripathi says.

Last year, Virginia reported 48 cases of West Nile Virus, an infectious disease that first appeared in the United States in 1999. Tripathi says 38 cases became neuroinvasive and seven cases turned fatal.

Although most people will not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people develop a mild short-term illness including head and body aches, fever or a rash.

In rare cases, the illness can become severe and cause neurological problems, even death.

"We don't have any vaccines to prevent these viral infections and we don't have any specific treatment to treat the infections," Tripathi says. "Our best bet is to prevent the mosquito bite."

Physicians recommend wearing insect repellant with an EPA registered ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 or Oil of Eucalyptus.

When possible, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.

The Virginia Department of Health recommends removing all non-circulating water from your property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Empty bird baths, flower pots, buckets, tires or toys.

If you start to feel ill after a mosquito bite, see a doctor immediately.

Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m.

Watch for Working For Your Health reports on CBS 6.

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