Nile Virus Mosquitoes are the primary vectors, or agents, of spreading West Nile Virus. Originating in Africa, this virus was first documented in the United States in 1999. While most people who become infected with the virus experience no symptoms, the virus can cause severe and life-threatening illness. Thus, preventing the spread of West Nile Virus is critically important. The following are five ways individuals can help keep the virus at bay.
Reduce Areas Where Mosquitoes Breed
The best way to prevent West Nile Virus from spreading is to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing or slow-moving water. The first three stages in a mosquito’s life cycle – egg, larva and pupa – occur in water. These stages last from five days to two weeks before an adult mosquito is ready to fly off and infect humans with West Nile Virus. Any natural or man-made container that can hold even just a few inches of water is a potential breeding ground.
Empty anything that supports standing water. Over-looked sources include flower pots, watering cans, garden pools and pet dishes. Other potential reservoirs of stagnant water are rain gutters, tire swings and wheelbarrows. Turn any container upside down or drill holes to facilitate drainage. Break the cycle of mosquito development by emptying standing water each week. Eliminating potential breeding habitat is a homeowner’s best defense against the spread of West Nile.
Reduce Activity at Dawn and Dusk
Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so stay indoors during these periods. Reschedule barbeques and parties to late afternoon, after the heat of the day, but before dusk. Also keep pets indoors during these times. Pets are generally non-susceptible to West Nile, but they do provide food for mosquitoes, keeping the pests alive long enough to infect a person.
Cover Your Skin
Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks reduces the amount of skin exposed to mosquitoes. For outdoor workers, there is special clothing impregnated with permethrin which helps repel insects. Be sure to keep babies and children covered as well. Female mosquitoes can live for a few weeks up to a month and continue to lay eggs during that entire time as long as they keep feeding. Denying mosquitoes a chance to use adults and children as food sources is another good way to prevent the spread of the illness.
Check all the door and window screens in your home and replace those with holes. Keeping doors shut, especially during dawn and dusk, helps keeps mosquitoes out of your house. The use of mosquito netting over beds is a another good way to prevent being bitten at night.
Finally, keep mosquitoes from biting by applying an insect repellent with EPA-approved ingredients. These include DEET, Picuridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. The EPA recommends using DEET at 30 percent concentrations for adults and only 10 percent for children. DEET should not be used on infants. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural insecticide and a better choice for babies and young children. However, due to the strength of all insecticides, be sure to bathe after returning indoors.
Mosquitoes and their breeding habitat cannot be completely eliminated, even with city-wide pesticide spray programs. Still, efforts by homeowners and individuals can make a difference in preventing the spread of West Nile Virus and reducing the chance of infection. As more individuals identify and eliminate localized standing water and protect themselves from mosquito bites, fewer mosquitoes will survive to continue the breeding cycle. Everyone has a part in preventing the spread of this increasingly prevalent disease.
The West Nile Virus is spread by the Nile Virus Mosquitoes. The virus is originally found in Africa, but was found in the states in the 90’s This particular virus is exteremely dangerous and can end in death, but most individuals who contact the virus do not have any symptoms.