The One About West Nile Virus

There is currently a lot of talk in the news, particularly here in Texas, about West Nile virus.

What is West Nile virus?

West Nile virus is a viral infection that gets transmitted to humans when an infected mosquito bites a person.  It is not transferred person to person.  Most people (about 80%) who get infected by West Nile virus will have no symptoms at all.  Some people (about 20%) will have relatively mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, and sometimes rash.  Very few people (about 1 in 150 people infected by West Nile virus) will develop severe symptoms including high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, confusion and other neurologic abnormalities that can be quite severe.  Elderly persons are at greatest risk of severe infection.

Treatment

As with most viral infections, there is no specific treatment for West Nile virus.  Those who develop mild infection will get better without treatment.  The small percentage of people with severe symptoms will need in hospital care.

Prevention is key!

–          Get rid of standing water.  This is where mosquitoes breed.

–          Use bug spray containing DEET when outside.

–          Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

–          Wear long pants and long sleeves if possible when you do need to be outside at dawn or dusk.

In short, West Nile virus can cause severe infection in a small number of people, and the key to prevention is avoidance of mosquito bites.

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The One About Summer Fun

We have reached the point in summer when there is less than one month left until school officially starts.  For many of our older patients this means that fall sports are starting up.  (Please drink lots of icy cold water for those outdoor practices!!)

For those not getting an early start on fall activities, (and probably for some of those who are), the dog days of summer often lead kids to utter words that many parents dread, “I’m bored.”  To help you and your family make the most of the last days of summer, I asked the parents in our practice for some of their favorite boredom busters.

Dr. Jennifer Cardwell enjoys cooking and baking with her girls because it’s fun and teaches a little math and science. She also suggested playing Monopoly which teaches about math and counting money. Rock climbing at Main Event is another favorite in her household. Sounds like a nice physical inside activity for a hot day!

Dr. Brent Cardwell suggested climbing Mount Everest, swimming the Amazon, and exploring the North Pole. I think he was joking, but I love these ideas!  Why not schedule a morning to climb Mount Everest? Older kids can research and learn about each of these places and help create great make-believe play with younger siblings.  Where else would your kids like to “go” on an adventure?

Dr. Lisa Hutchen’s favorites include water balloon games, scavenger hunts, reading, insect hunts, and library story time. This lists sounds very much like the way my siblings and I spent many long summer days. Add bikes or swimming in the evening, and it sounds just like my childhood.

Check out these sites for local story times in your community:

Cedar Park Library

Round Rock Library

Austin Public Library

Dr. Cameron King suggested G-rated movies shown especially for kids over the summer time.   Several local theaters have these programs available and the Free Fun in Austin website is a great resource to find children’s movie listings, as well other fun things to do with kids and as a family in and around town.

Another great way to stay cool and give your kids an educational experience is to visit one of the many museums that Austin has to offer.  The Blanton Museum of Art and the Texas Memorial Museum both located on the University of Texas campus both provide hours of air conditioned learning fun!

Enjoy soaking in summer for the next few weeks!