Public Health Command Europe is urging people in Northern Italy to take extra precautions against mosquito bites this year due to an increased risk of exposure to West Nile Virus.

Health authorities have identified at least 123 human cases of West Nile virus in Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, Italy, between June and Aug. 8. This number increased significantly compared to only five cases identified during the same period in 2017.

The West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to PHCE.

"The WNV, Culex species, mosquito is a dusk and dawn biting mosquito and their occurrence around our home is weather dependent," said Maj. Amanda Cline, PHCE's Entomological Science Program chief.

"Mosquitoes will be present in northern Italy as long as the days are warm and there is rainfall which is typically from April to November. The mosquito population will taper off after a few consecutive freezing nights."

Most infected people who have been bitten by this specific mosquito develop no symptoms. However, a few do. Approximately 20 percent of infected people develop febrile illness characterized by symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.

"Less than 1 percent of infected individuals develop serious neurologic illness, which can become life-threatening. The virus' symptoms typically appear within two to six days after being bitten, but can develop up to 14 days after exposure." explained LTC Ruben Ortiz from USARAF Surgeon's office. Avoid scratching mosquito bites and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching. Seek medical attention if the symptoms develop within two weeks of being in affected areas.

To avoid mosquito bites, PHCE recommends the following:
• Cover exposed skin by wearing light colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats
• Use insect repellent that contains DEET when outdoors
• Wear a Permethrin treated military uniform and wear it properly
• Eliminate mosquito breeding sites by draining standing water around your property
• Make sure door and window screens do not have holes

To keep houses mosquito free, PHCE officials suggest attaching screens on windows and doors and using air conditioning, when available. The reduction, elimination, or treatment of mosquito breeding areas is the best and most cost-effective technique for mosquito control. The most important things you and the citizens of your community can do to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile Virus are to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas in your environment and limit your exposure to feeding mosquitoes. Eliminate all standing water in your yard and work area. Check old tires, flowerpots, abandoned swimming pools and rain gutters. Change water in pet bowls, birdbaths and children's pools once a week. Mosquito larvae can survive in water the size of a bottle cap!

For further information on WNV please visit, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html or the PHCE website at http://rhce.amedd.army.mil/phce/index.cfm.