Allison McGrath ’22
As most of you know, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has discovered mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus (WNV) in Worcester. Though no human cases have been reported, mosquito bites are still pose a threat until the weather cools down. The Student Health Awareness Peer Educators (SHAPE) find it essential to equip our student body with good methods for protecting yourself against mosquitoes and for monitoring any possible symptoms of West Nile virus as well as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (also known as EEE). SHAPE has compiled the most important information to know about our current situation.
West Nile virus may present itself in many ways, and you may not even know if you have been infected. In fact, 8 out of 10 people infected with West Nile virus do not develop symptoms at all. However, 1 in 5 may develop fever with headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. These symptoms can completely recover, but some may have fatigue and weakness lasting weeks or months. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk. Seek an evaluation from a medical provider if you have any concerns. Health Services is in Loyola, call or schedule an appointment online.
Though these symptoms seem very similar to the common flu, it is important to check in with health professionals to check for West Nile Virus. This is due to the fact that fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. EEE may also appear as symptoms that are flu-like. These symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain. These systemic symptoms can last for up to 2 weeks and typically resolve on their own.
Both of these illnesses can lead to rare but serious symptoms that may affect the brain. If swelling of the brain occurs in EEE then more severe symptoms of encephalitis are fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, bluish color to the skin, convulsions, and coma. WNV may also cause severe symptoms such as swelling of the brain and additionally may cause inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, meningitis: fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, numbness, paralysis and vision loss. Seek care at the Emergency Room right away if these severe symptoms develop. Call Public Safety if you are campus and need immediate emergency assistance.
There is no vaccine or antiviral treatment for West Nile Virus or EEE available, so preventing mosquito bites is important to protect yourself from the virus. If you remember the 5 D’s, protection from mosquitoes is simple. Remind yourself to avoid going outside during dawn and dusk (the most active time for mosquitoes). Dress in long-sleeved clothes as often as possible, use insect repellent that contains the ingredient DEET, and contact Holy Cross personnel to drain any standing water found on campus. For more information, follow SHAPE on Facebook, twitter, or instagram @holycrossshape.