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Top Three Ways to Prevent West Nile Virus


Source: Wikimedia Commons

By:  Leslie Ann Dauphin, Ph.D.

Are you planning on spending time outdoors playing Baseball this summer?  For parents across the United States, summer months include planning for family activities, vacations and something else—mosquito dodging.   Since 2003, awareness of West Nile Virus (WNV) infection has increased in the United States.  Last year alone, more than 3000 cases and 100 deaths were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Why should you be concerned about WNV? 

WNV is a mosquito-borne, disease-causing virus that has established seasonal epidemics in the United States.  Most people that become infected with the virus develop no or mild symptoms.  However, in a small percentage of cases, people develop symptoms that are severe, may cause permanent  neurological damage, and can even be fatal.  For this reason, you should be aware of things that you can do prevent your family members from becoming infected.  Below are what experts agree to be the best ways to prevent WNV.

1.  Resist by using Repellents

One of the best things that you can do to protect yourself and loved ones from West Nile Virus infection is to use insect repellent.  Although the virus may be transmitted to humans in other ways, bites from mosquitoes are the most common mode of transmission to humans.  For this reason, using an effective insect repellent will decrease the chances of becoming infected.

Recent studies suggest that DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) and Pircardin (KBR 3023) are the most effective repellants. These are chemical repellents that have been shown to have the most repellency and to provide longer-lasting protection. The CDC recommends the use of products that have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  They are likely to contain one of these repellents as active ingredients and they have also been tested for safety.

2.  Dress for Defense

Another way to prevent West Nile Virus is to dress for protection from mosquito bites.  This is especially important if you are planning outdoor events that will involve extended periods of time.  Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants will cover areas that mosquitoes are likely to bite.   Even if the weather conditions are not favorable for this type of clothing, consider wearing lightweight clothing that will provide some protection.

3.  Steer Clear when Mosquitoes are Near

You can also decrease the chances of becoming infected with WNV by avoiding mosquitoes.  For example, the peak biting times for many types of mosquitoes is between the hours of dusk and dawn.  During these times, it may be best to avoid extended outdoor activities.  If you or your family members choose to be outdoors for extended periods of time, be sure to wear an effective insect repellent and dress for protection.

It is known that mosquitoes breed near standing water. Another way to avoid mosquitoes is to stay away from standing water. Remove containers that hold water from areas near your home.

You may also prevent mosquitoes from coming into your home by installing screens for windows and doors.  Also, be sure to repair broken screens, windows doors, or holes that provide access to your home.

WNV is a disease-causing virus that may be spread to humans by mosquitoes.  Since mosquitoes are more prevalent during the summer months, protecting yourself and loved ones from mosquito bites during this time of year is important.   Experts agree that practicing the methods outlined above is the best way to prevent mosquito bites, ultimately decreasing the chances of becoming infected.