Northern Va. begins annual battle against Lyme disease, West Nile virus

WASHINGTON – It’s been a war over the last few years in the Washington region trying to cut down on the spread of West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. This year’s skirmish is now underway.

The targets are Lyme Disease-carrying ticks and West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Traps have been set up in Fairfax County to monitor the mosquito population for West Nile Virus to give health officials some indication of how hard the region could be hit this year.

In neighboring Loudoun County, spraying for ticks starts Thursday in some county parks, according to Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend.

They will be focusing on “those areas, particularly trails, where people are most likely to come in contact with black legged ticks,” he said.

Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites.

Goodfriend said your best protection against mosquitoes and ticks is still insect repellent, long sleeves and long pants in the woods.

Health officials advise homeowners to remove any standing water from their properties to help cut down the mosquito population. That will help fight West Nile virus.

Both diseases can kill if left untreated, though most people who are bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes never get sick or have only minor symptoms.

Both Lyme disease, which comes from bacteria, and the West Nile Virus begin with flu-like symptoms.

Those with Lyme disease also get a bull’s-eye-type rash.

Goodfriend also suggests checking pets for ticks.

The spraying in Loudoun County will be done only on weekdays, weather permitting on the following schedule:

  • June 6: Claude Moore Park, Franklin Park, Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park
  • June 10: Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, Conklin Park, Brambleton West Fields

The county is using a Bifenthrin-based product called Talstar.

Goodfriend says people should watch for posted signs and stay away from sprayed areas until they are dry.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 5,674 known cases of West Nile Virus nationwide. Thirty of those cases were in Virginia, the most in that state since 2003.

Last year, 286 people died from West Nile Virus nationwide, the deadliest year yet for the disease that first started showing up in the U.S. in 1999.

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