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Prevention key in avoiding West Nile virus

By Staff | Jul 22, 2008

In 2007, there were 30 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Iowa. In addition to West Nile, though, there are a number of other diseases that can be spread by mosquitoes and other insects.

This year to date, 28 cases of West Nile in humans have been reported throughout the U.S., with four of those cases in North Dakota.

The first line of defense, of course, is insect repellent. Following are products recommended by the Centers for Disease control for repelling mosquitoes:

n DEET. This is the most common insect repellent, and very effective.

n Picaridin.

n Oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD.

n IR3535.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers DEET and Picaridin as conventional repellents and oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, and IR 3535 as biopesticide repellents derived from natural materials.

As is the case with any chemical, there are some basic precautions one should take when applying insect repellents to the body:

n Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing as specified on the product label.

n Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.

n Do not apply to eyes or mouth.

n Do not allow children to handle insect repellents.

n Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.

n After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe.

n If you or your child get a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water and call a local poison control center for further guidance.

There are other precautions you can take to prevent mosquitoes from biting.

Get rid of their habitat. That means getting rid any unnecessary standing pools of water on your property. Check wheelbarrows, old tires and unused children’s swimming pools since they are places where mosquitoes can breed. Also, keep your grass mowed since tall grass harbors mosquitoes.

When you’re outdoors, consider lighting a citronella candle to keep mosquitoes away. Some people are firm believers in lighting outdoor fireplaces since the smoke repels flying insects.

Be especially careful for young children or infants in the outdoors. Place mosquito netting over infant carriers.

Mosquitoes are especially active at dusk. Consider staying indoors at that time.

Make sure you have screens on all doors and windows and that they’re in good repair.

If you should have a severe reaction to mosquito bites, consider using an antihistamine to reduce the itch. If you’re unsure of any possible reaction to antihistamines, check first with your doctor before using them.

As weather turns wetter, there can be more mosquito hatches. Also, understand that slow-moving or still water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So avoid those areas unless you have mosquito repellent. Also consider wearing a light, long-sleeved shirt and a hat.

Using a few preventive measures can make the difference between a fun summer outing and a miserable experience.