By JOE DeLAUTER
Q.: My brother-in-law, Roger, lives in a southern state where a relatively high number of West Nile virus cases have been reported. He's 84, lives alone and still walks to the corner market every other day just before sundown to buy something like a box of cereal or a pound of coffee.
I'm concerned about him because his area might not get a freeze until late October or early November, and he doesn't seem to take the West Nile threat seriously. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
A.: It sounds as if Roger could use additional reminders and support from family, friends or a professional caregiver. They could run errands for groceries and other things to limit Roger's exposure to the virus-carrying mosquitoes during their prime activity times of dusk and dawn.
First, here's additional information about the West Nile virus and this year's troubling developments:
In most people, West Nile can cause a mild flu-like illness or may cause no symptoms. But people older than 50, particularly those over 65, have the highest risk of severe disease. In some cases, especially among the elderly, West Nile can cause serious neurological diseases such as encephalitis or meningitis. Severe symptoms include neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis. In this year's incomplete U.S. case count, more than half were severe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
This year's West Nile virus outbreak includes at least 38 states, and the danger will continue until colder weather settles in. "We're in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the U.S.," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, who oversees the CDC's mosquito-borne illness programs.
Experts said the mild winter, early spring and hot summer helped stimulate mosquito breeding and the spread of the virus.
There is no vaccine to protect against West Nile virus, although several companies hope to develop one. The best way to prevent West Nile disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Insect repellents, screens on doors and windows, and wearing long sleeves and pants are some of the recommended strategies.
For more information contact Joe DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or go to www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.