"All I've got to say to people is you'd better start wearing that mosquito spray," Bob Conley, nine months after the 45-year-old contracted West Nile Virus in Southern Mississippi.
Creating Defense Against the West Nile Viru s, America's Most Rapidly Spreading Pest-Borne Disease
Harvard Public Health Expert Offers Tips in Prevention
Experts predicting another summer of increasing cases of the West Nile Virus, including more fatalities, say a combination of preventative methods is the best way to combat the mosquito-borne disease.
Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a specialist in risk analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, warns that people need to be vigilant this summer in taking precautions against mosquitoes, which may be carrying the disease.
"It is best to take a holistic approach to mosquito control," says Dr. Thompson. "This includes taking physical measures to reduce breeding grounds and risk, using pest control products properly when needed, and working within local communities to ensure civic leaders are providing education about West Nile Virus and protection from mosquitoes."
The following are 10 tips to avoid mosquito bites and infection of West Nile Virus:
1. Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
2. Use mosquito repellants on exposed skin whenever you are in an area where mosquitoes may be present. Repellants provide extra protection individuals need when exposed to mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects.
3. Eliminate standing water, including clogged gutters, pool covers, empty wheelbarrows, and pools of water anywhere in the yard. Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated. Be sure to remove used tires, which are a common haven for mosquito breeding.
4. Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
5. Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and closed shoes.
6. Encourage local officials to treat small ponds with larvacide and consider stocking larger ponds with larva eating fish as additional control.
7. Ensure that organizers of summertime activities for youth and the elderly - such as summer camps, park and recreation centers, and senior centers are proactively using pest control strategies and products.
8. Beware of the times mosquitoes are most active; typically at dusk and dawn, April through October, and avoid prime mosquito locations including marshes and wetlands.
9. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use keep covered.
10. Learn more about your community's mosquito control program. If local elected officials have not implemented a mosquito control program, advice about pest control products for consumers and local governments is available at westnilevirusfacts.org. Ensure that local community leaders are giving protection to the public through integrated mosquito management programs.
For people who wonder about the risks of using of pest control products and repellents to control mosquitoes, Dr. Thompson says: "Get the facts. Pest control products are exhaustively tested before they reach the market, and they can and should be used to promote public health and safety when needed. West Nile Virus is a real threat and you can make smart choices to protect yourself and others around you."