12 Replies Latest reply: Sep 29, 2012 4:39 PM by odesk1211 RSS

    West Nile Virus issues

    Senior Contributor

      I'd like opinions on this matter. There's been quite a bit of press recently about the increase in the West Nile Virus in certain areas. In Texas (our VR is located on the Texas coast, 40 miles south of Houston) is seeing a huge increase in this problem. 75% of mosquitos tested in Houston were positive for the virus.


      We provide sunscreen, mosquito repellent sprays and citronella type repellent lights in the outdoor areas of our home.  But, being on an Island surrounded by bays, marshes, lakes and the Gulf makes it impossible to provide a bug free environmment. Locals are used to it, but vacationers won't be.


      Should I be offering a warning? If so, how would I do this without scaring people to death? 


      I'm think about providing a page in our Welcome Book that addresses the problem, but I have no idea how many people actually read that information.

      Love some feed back! Thanks in advance!!


        • Re: West Nile Virus issues
          thaxterlane Premier Contributor

          I had a similar situation this year, except my problem was ticks.


          I learned of the infestation on the island from a guest and the local newspaper which I read online.


          There was a lengthy article about the situation and good advice for recognizing ticks, understanding how to dress when out and about, inspecting oneself for ticks, and removing ticks if found.


          I  thought carefully about bringing this to my guests' attention but decided I had to inform them of a public health problem that was featured on the front page of the local newspaper.


          I put together an email that alerted them to the issue, attached the article, and held my breath.


          My guests uniformly thanked me for the information. 


          That's all.  No one expressed any concerns, several said they appreciated the information, many said they were already familiar with dealing with ticks, etc.


          The language in my email was low key and non-alarmist.  Here is what I wrote:



          "I just had a note from a guest that returned from MV last Saturday. He writes that the number of ticks on the island is much larger than he has previously seen. I’m grateful for his note; when I last visited the island in June the tick population seemed at “normal” levels. However, he writes that his family had to be much more vigilant than usual about inspecting themselves for ticks after outdoor activities.


          Yesterday morning, I followed my usual Friday morning routine and logged onto the Vineyard Gazette to read the weekly island news. I found the lead story is about a public health initiative to study tick-borne illnesses, distribute information about prevention of tick bites, and treatment for bites.


          I thought long and hard about whether I should send this “alert” and decided it’s important for everyone to know of the risk presented by ticks.


          I’m sending the link to the story which discusses how to prevent tick bites: xxx  and I’m attaching a copy in case you are not able to access the Gazette (they require a log in for some of their articles).


          There is also information about ticks in one of the house binders, including a diagram for identifying ticks in the event you are not familiar with their appearance.


          I don’t want to frighten anyone, but I think it is important to know about ticks and tick-borne illnesses to protect yourself, family, and friends from illness.


          Please be assured, that each Spring and Summer over many years, my family, and our guests, have enjoyed outdoor activities without undue concern about ticks. We do inspect ourselves carefully (see article for details), remove ticks promptly when found, and other than one or two bites that resulted from my young children refusing baths (!),  preventing a thorough search for ticks, we have not had any tick bites. And, my children’s bites most fortunately did not develop into any illness.


          Please do not hesitate to write or call with any questions.


          I wish you a most enjoyable week!"




          I do think a public health situation has to be brought to your guests' attention. 


          Best of luck!

          • Re: West Nile Virus issues
            anja Senior Contributor

            I would not offer a "warning", literally.   Travellers are self informed of danges when they plan their trips especially when the degree of *press* is high as it is for West Nile Virus.


            I really hope that this situation isn't going to dramatically impact the rental business for you folks in the affected areas.  In my interest for the concern of my guests wellbeing, I would remind them to take sensible precautions. There are precautions that have been published. I would gather a short list and  make it available for them, at the house. Other than that, and with all the other things that you provide in your home....it's up to travellers to protect themselves as much as possible.  I heard about the problem the other day on the TV news in my State....about Texas and the many other States where the problem exists.  I haven't heard more about it, since...but I'm far out in the middle of "nowhere".....travellers  on the mainland are probably getting more daily press...in print and TV coverage.  So, travellers to your State must probably already have a heightened awareness.   As the owner, I would help them with tips on how to vacation in my home's area... (Google the tips)....tell them what you have in the house.... {and I would probably supply the recommended repellent ...in the medical kit as an amenity -- prominently that they use at their own risk}. ...and I would send this information in advance of their arrival (email)....neither down playing nor heightening warnings.  Just informing them of what you have done to help. 


            My experience...

            I have visited NYC when the place was under siege by infected mosquitoes with West Nile Virus. My mother lives in an area in NY heavily infested...and there was spraying everywhere.  I was living overseas at the time, and flying in to visit my mother....I knew about the problem in advance....and there was also information during the flight for visitors who would be staying in NYC. 


            In the height of the problem, with insecticide being sprayed in neighbourhoods...my mom's included....I continued with my plans for vacationing in NY --- concerts in Central Park --- hiking in Bear Mountain....I never stopped ---- but I did take the precautions that were advised. 


            I was once in charge of public relations and communications at a health organization --- and whenever there was an outbreak that threatened public health, I had to deal with not only the press relations but also the "government offices that were in charge of tourism"....and the tourism authorities were not always happy about releasing "warnings" to the public...lest tourism would fall!  It was a fine line to walk with relations, but my position was to "communicate" public health warnings so we were always dealing with this kind of situation...and "conflict of interest". 


            I am for "providing information"....and offering "prescribed"  tips, that are published by health authorities for anything that amounts to a public health hazard. 



              • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                thaxterlane Premier Contributor

                anja, I understand your point of view, but I disagree with your assumption that people are well informed.  I believe it's quite the contrary.  And where health  is concerned, I would want my guests to be prepared.  The consequences of being bitten by infected mosquitoes and ticks are too high, in my opinion, to leave the information to be discovered (possibly) in a house binder on arrival.  This also assumes guests are reading house materials . . . .


                If I were traveling to an area with a public health situation I would want to know before I arrived; that's what decided me on sending an "alert" to my guests. 


                I would not want to arrive in ignorance, find information at the house, and then have to determine how I would prevent, protect, and treat myself in the situation.   


                It may be the overprotective mother in me, but I had to alert my guests to the situation to keep in good standing with my conscience. 

                  • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                    mike-dfv CommunityAmbassador

                    These types of things should probably be dealt with similar to a "boil water notice". Make sure they are aware of the problem, point them to where they can get quality information, and provide them with some direction. It doesn't need to be scary, but they should be informed.



                    • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                      anja Senior Contributor

                      Hi Thax,


                      Yes, and I agree with you...and you missed all my points.   I stated, ".... as the owner, I would help them with tips on how to vacation in my home's area... (Google the tips)....tell them what you have in the house.... {and I would probably supply the recommended repellent ...in the medical kit as an amenity -- prominently that they use at their own risk}. ...and I would send this information in advance of their arrival (email)....neither down playing nor heightening warnings.  Just informing them of what you have done to help."


                      My post was entirely based on them having the information via the press, self awareness,  and Msdebj including it both in the house and sending the prescribed tips by email before arriving...along with what the house contains for prevention. I covered all those points.


                      And..my last sentence in my post was: 

                      I am for "providing information"....and offering "prescribed"  tips, that are published by health authorities for anything that amounts to a public health hazard.

                        • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                          thaxterlane Premier Contributor

                          Anja, I did miss your second statement.  I was responding to your opening statement in which you said you wouldn't "warn" your guests. Your later statement indicates you would "warn" your guests.  It seems there is agreement about telling guests about the issue, but disagreement over "warning", "alerting", "telling", or "offering tips".


                          So perhaps we all agree?


                          The language used should never be inflammatory, but it should be accurate. 


                          In my instance, the news article, as I wrote in response to gmajay, was about an ongoing CDC project based on the island due to the problems associated with the tick population.


                          It contained information a newcomer, in particular, might not know. 


                          I also had a long term guest telling me "he had never seen anything like it", referring to the large numbers of ticks, in all the years he has visited the island.  I believe he said they were "everywhere."  Yikes.


                          In this situation it seemed I needed to do more than rely on the information in my house binders.  I don't think "tips" are sufficient to protect guests in this situation.  I don't think the information should be presented in a way that suggests preventive action is optional.  Not when serious illness may be the result.  (And ticks may be brought into the house . . . . )


                          This may, again, simply be a choice of language.  I alert my guests, you offer tips.  Perhaps it's all the same . . .


                          I don't stock repellents in my house.  I have copies of a brochure (see gmajay's recommendations) to advise guests that wish to know which to use and about the different ingredients.  I am concerned about allergies, use on young children, and other inappropriate use.  The repellents are widely available on island.   (I have a very minimal first aid kit that does not contain anything that might cause guests any harm.) 


                          My best to you!

                            • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                              anja Senior Contributor

                              Hi Thax....(Oh, that's alright...no harm done.)   I had read everyone's posts and I'm  with  you again that we are all in agreement.  I didn't elaborate on any of my points as well as you did....that was my fault.   I don't believe in being an alarmist --- hense I opened my post with that first point...(sorry I wasn't clear)...just that I would not "warn literally" --  because Msdebj was concerned about "scaring"  her guests  ---.so I was writing exactly to her point...e.g. not to scare them with "warnings", but to provide the info.  But, I just "bashed" out a quick response to her...not very elaborately...not clear enough---my fault.


                              In any case, I think we're on the same page.  I worked for years with the press (overseas) and they can be very extreme with "warnings"....it's all about headlines and selling news. Regardless, the info needs to get out...covered widely using all media.  It's everyone's individual responsibility to heed and prevent...the information is available.  I feel the weight of responsibility for my guests in my environment which is full of dangerous hazards and my role, IMO, is also to point them to the info, if they're staying in my house.  I'm not responsible  for their safety but I am very clear in my "information - tips - advice."...sending them in advance and on arrival. 


                              I suppose it's only a matter of time before the virus arrives in the Hawaiian Islands...(at least there are no reported cases of W.N. Virus...yet but with the hundreds of thousands of travellers that arrive here, it's just a matter  of time that someone infected arrives).  We have mosquitoes here ...and I've read not long ago that Hawaii does have the type of mosquito that is a carrier.  Perhaps, in the near future I'll be needing to glean all the information for my guests [sigh].  This is a good thread here ...and thanks to Msdebj's question!


                              The ticks are another concern...very serious.  We had them in the environment where I lived overseas. Gardening was not a pleasure because of them.. A  colleague of mine who forraged for wild mushrooms regularly (overseas)  contracted Lyme Disease and was forced into early retirement...very ill...she did recover to a good extent, but remains on early retirement.  It was a very long and difficult rehab and recovery  for her. She will probably never get back to work. 


                              The type of tick that carries the bacteria  Borrelia burgdorferi  causing Lyme disease has not reached the Hawaiian Islands.


                              And...all my very best to you --- warmest alohas!  Let's stay safe, out there!

                      • Re: West Nile Virus issues

                        I did mosquito work for the Health Dept. in Reno, NV during the 1999-2005 West Nile virus (WNV) nation-wide outbreak. Not only did I do all the field work involved in mosquito control, I was also responsible for public education and outreach in our community regarding WNV prevention.


                        I think it's important to alert guests calmly ("warning" is too strong a word for me) before they arrive about the fact you have mosquitoes in your area (do you let them know that usually even when WNV is not a threat?) and that there may be some risk of WNV. I would let them know what you do to protect them (Citronella? Screens? Remove standing water? Provide repellents?), but also let them know that they may want to take some additional precautions to prevent getting bitten during their stay. I would give them a reassuring message that they can still have a nice, safe vacation at your rental in spite of the WNV threat.


                        I also think it's important to give people solid information, and sometimes the media in my experience tends to overstate the risks and is unnecessarily alarmist in presenting the story. In fact, I think people some times tune out and ignore what comes out in the media for that reason. I would recommend information from the CDC website at:http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factSheet.htm 


                        My experience with WNV is that the Culex species of mosquitoes--that ones primarily known to spread it-- are not agressive biters. They generally are only active at dawn and dusk and will sneak up and grab a blood meal and you may not even know you were bitten. That was the case during the last outbreak in Nevada--some of the people who came down with the disease did not recall getting any mosquito bites!That's why it is even more important for people to put on repellents and take other precautions if they are going to be out in the evening or early morning during times of peak mosquito activity.


                        I have information about mosquito repellents and tick identification and removal posted in our Cape Cod VR right on the kitchen bulletin board where people can see it when they walk in the door. The brochure on mosquito repellents is put out by the American Mosquito Control Association. It describes some of the new, effective repellents that are much friendlier to use than those with DEET. I particularly like the lemon oil of eucalyptis repellents because the smell is pleasant and it is effective against Culex species--it's the one I always chose when I was in the field doing mosquito work.  If a repellent is nice to use, people are more likely to use it!


                        Message was edited by: gmajay  After checking for the free mosquito repellent brochure at the AMCA website, it appears it is no longer available for free download. The information at the CDC website is equally good at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm   The picaridin repellent mentioned there is as strong as DEET in my experience and is virtually ordorless.

                          • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                            thaxterlane Premier Contributor

                            I agree that guests should be provided with reliable information. 


                            The article I sent my guests was about a CDC study that has been ongoing for a number of years due to the high rates of Lyme Disease amongst the year 'round population on the island.


                            It cited CDC and local collaborators data on the tick population, rates of infection, and how to idenitfy, prevent, and treat tick bites and tick borne diseases.


                            It specifically warned (or alerted, whichever word you prefer) people about the unusually high population of ticks expected in the following period of weeks/months based on data generated by the study.


                            It wasn't an "oh my g-d, stay indoors" article.  It was a thorough discussion of reasonable safety precautions to be taken and had links to a variety of reliable health and science organizations for further information.


                            I like the idea of a bulletin board for this type of information.  As of now, I have the information in the front inner pocket of one of my house binders.  A bulletin board wouldn't eliminate the need to alert guests, but it would make certain the information is in plain sight.  (Is it being read?  Maybe, but ta least you can be satisfied you've put it under their noses.)  I'm thinking about where I would locate a bulletin board . . . .  

                              • Re: West Nile Virus issues

                                Thanks for mentioning the tick and Lyme disease study, thax. If you could send me a private message with the link to that article, I am most interested as there is application to the rest of Cape Cod, I'm sure.


                                I just reread your post and noted why you do not provide repellents to your guests because of the possibility of misuse with young children and allergic reactions. Those are really valid concerns and are a good reason not to provide repellents. I guess I feel that those risks are minimal. I let me guests know that the picaridin repellent is the one that is labelled for children under the age of two years.


                                I hope we have given msdebj some helpful ideas for dealing with the West Nile virus situation.

                                  • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                                    Senior Contributor

                                    Thanks everyone! I can always count on you guys to offer great advice!


                                    I located a press release from the County health department where our VR is located. It adresses safety precautions without sounding alarmist. I'm just going to include it as an attachment when I email my guests 5-6 days before their date of arrival. I always send them a weather forecast so this will just be another bit of info.

                                    Thanks again! Debj

                              • Re: West Nile Virus issues
                                New Member

                                weather is also the reason foe one!