West Nile Virus raises mosquito-bite anxiety

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy, especially if you’re a hungry mosquito amongst a buffet of unprotected hunks of human flesh. They’re annoying, darn near invisible and can leave behind not only an itchy red bump, but disease as well.

Unfortunately they’re here to stay, but being bitten doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion. With a little education and a lot of bug spray, you can make this a scratch-free summer.

When exactly is mosquito season?

“Mosquito season typically starts in May and goes until the first hard frost,” said Bill Wharton, spokesperson for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County. He says that while no one can really predict how bad a mosquito season is going to be, one thing he does know: West Nile Virus is still in Ohio.

“Last year, of the mosquitoes we tested, 1 out of 3 samplings came back positive for (West Nile Virus),” said Wharton.

But before anyone worries too much, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80 percent of those who are infected exhibit no symptoms at all.

Why are people talking about it?

Mosquitoes have been around since the age of dinosaurs and up until recent years, their existence has been nothing more than a nuisance. But as cases of West Nile Virus continue to make headlines, people want to know what they can do to protect themselves.

“While the presence of (West Nile Virus) in our area is scary, people need to remember that the only way to contract the virus is through the bite of a mosquito,” said Wharton. “Prevent the bite, prevent the virus.”

What it means to you

Joe Conlon, a former Dayton resident who now is technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, recommends the three “D”s when it comes to protecting against mosquitoes: drain, dress and defend.

Drain: “Mosquitoes that breed around the house feed on those who live there,” said Conlon. “That’s why it’s important to drain and change any standing water at least once a week.” This includes things like birdbaths, fountains, drip pans underneath air conditioning units, potted plant trays, gutters, baby pools and rain barrels. Swimming pools are typically not breeding grounds for mosquitoes due to the chlorination of the water.

Dress: “Studies have shown that day biters like dark colored clothing,” said Conlon. When possible, wear loose fitting, light colored clothing. Believe it or not, mosquitoes can bite through tight fitting clothes. Whenever possible, wear long sleeves and long pants.

Defend: Of course, the biggest way to protect yourself from mosquitoes wherever you go is through the use of an EPA-registered bug repellent. Popular brands include OFF!, Cutter, and Avon Skin So Soft are recommended. Though there have been concerns raised in the past over the use of DEET (an ingredient found in bug repellents) Conlon says that the risks of DEET (if used properly) are far less than those of West Nile Virus.

“If used according to the instruction label, these repellents are very effective at protecting against mosquitoes,” said Wharton. “Use it every time you could potentially come in contact with them.”

For more detailed information on how to protect yourself against mosquitoes, visit the Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County website at: www.phdmc.org/environment/nuisance/mosquito

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