When dealing with West Nile virus, mosquito bite prevention is your best bet. Fighting mosquito bites reduces your risk of getting West Nile virus, along with other illnesses that mosquitoes can carry. Take the commonsense steps below to reduce your risk:
- Avoid mosquito bites
- Clean out mosquitoes from the places where you live, work, and play
- Help your community control the disease
Something to remember: The chance that any one person is going to become ill from a single mosquito bite remains low. The risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
Use Insect Repellent
Apply insect repellent to exposedskinand clothing when you go outdoors. According to the CDC, insect repellents that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), picaridin (KBR 3023), and IR3535 as well as some oil of lemon, eucalyptus, and para-menthane-diol products usually provide longer protection than insect repellents containing different active ingredients. Even a short time outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite.
Always follow the product label's instructions for use. Look for a graphic created by the Environmental Protection Agency that indicates how long the product will protect you from tick and mosquito bites. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months old.
Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent will give extra protection. Don't apply repellents containing the ingredient permethrin directly to skin. Permethrin should only be used on clothes, shoes, bed netting, and camping gear. Do not spray repellent containing DEET on the skin under your clothing.
Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours Dusk and dawnare peak mosquito biting times for many species of mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and early morning -- or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times. But keep in mind that these are not the only time that mosquitos bite. For instance the tiger mosquito, which was accidentally introduced into the United States, is one that's quite active during the day.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
Drain Standing Water
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water, such as empty trash cans or unused children's toys.
Install or Repair Screens
Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having well-fitting screens on both windows and doors.
Help Your Community Fight West Nile Virus
Report Dead Birds to Local Authorities
Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area. More than 130 species of birds are known to have been infected with West Nile virus, though not all infected birds will die. It's important to remember that birds die from many other causes besides West Nile virus.
By reporting dead birds to state and local health departments, you can play an important role in monitoring West Nile virus. State and local agencies have different policies for collecting and testing birds.
Mosquito Control Programs
Check with local health authorities to see if there is an organized mosquito control program in your area. If no program exists, work with your local government officials to establish a program. The American Mosquito Control Association can provide advice, and their book Organization for Mosquito Control is a useful reference.
More questions about mosquito control? A source for information about pesticides and repellents is the National Pesticide Information Center, which also operates a toll-free information line: 1-800-858-7378.
Clean Up to Prevent Mosquitoes
Mosquito breeding sites can be anywhere. Neighborhood clean-up days can be organized by civic or youth organizations to pick up containers from vacant lots and parks, and to encourage people to keep their yards free of standing water. Mosquitoes don't care about fences, so it's important to control breeding sites throughout the neighborhood.