During mosquito season, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reminding Illinoisans of the best ways to avoid being bitten. Different types of mosquitoes can carry different types of diseases, like West Nile virus and Zika virus, but steps you can take to protect yourself from mosquito bites are essentially the same. Taking some simple precautions can help you avoid mosquito bites, regardless of the type of mosquito or the diseases they carry.
West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected “house” mosquito. Mild cases of West Nile virus infections may cause a slight fever or headache. More severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever with head and body aches, disorientation, tremors, convulsions and, in the most severe cases, paralysis or death. Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito, that rarely has been found in Illinois. More information about the West Nile and Zika viruses can be found on the IDPH website at www.dph.illinois.gov/
Here are some simple precautions you can take to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and protect yourself from being bitten. Practice the three “R’s” – reduce, repel, and report.
• REDUCE – make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut. Eliminate, or refresh each week, all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, including water in bird baths, ponds, flowerpots, wading pools, etc.
• REPEL – when outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• REPORT – report locations where you see water sitting stagnant for more than a week such as roadside ditches or flooded yards. The local health department or city government may be able to add larvicide to the water, which will kill any mosquito eggs.