Health Watch -- Mosquito Dangers

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

A mosquito's bite can cause more than just itching.

A damp early summer in many parts of the country has led to a booming mosquito population, and we're already seeing the impact in cases of West Nile virus. This virus is carried by birds and spread by mosquitoes. A mosquito may bite an infected bird, then transfer the virus when biting a human. In most people the virus causes only mild flu-like symptoms, if it causes any symptoms at all. But in some people, the virus can be deadly. Most at risk are children, the elderly and people who already have health problems.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say one of the best ways to protect yourself from West Nile virus is to use an insect repellent containing the chemical DEET. Dr. Elizabeth Race, a UT Southwestern infectious diseases specialist, says it also helps to wear long pants and long sleeves when you're outdoors. Be especially careful around dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

In some cities, once mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus or birds infected with the virus are found, crews may spray to kill mosquitoes or mosquito larvae. Pay attention to any announcements about spraying and stay indoors with your windows closed at that time.

You can help reduce the mosquito population by getting rid of any standing water around your home. Empty saucers under potted plants and make sure nothing in your lawn is collecting water. Keep water in pet dishes and birdbaths fresh. Mosquitoes breed in water, so reducing standing water reduces potential breeding sites. 


Aug. 2004

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