As we spend more time outside in the summer, we are exposed to mosquitos and therefore mosquito bites. These bites are not only itchy and uncomfortable but mosquito bites can also be a vector for illness. They transmit viruses such as West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Zika virus to name a few.
These virus are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Adult female mosquitos feed on blood of hosts such as bird, humans or horses. When mosquitoes feed on blood, they salivate prior to and during feeding. If the mosquito feeds on a host that is infected with a virus she may become infected with the virus. She then feeds on a new host and transmits the virus through her saliva while she is feeding. Once the virus is transmitted, the new host may become ill and develop the symptoms of encephalitis. Although this can happen, more commonly the new host will develop few if any symptoms of the virus, because the host will develop antibodies against the virus.
Avoiding mosquito bites is the best strategy to prevent acquiring mosquito borne viruses. Controlling the mosquito population inside and outside of your home is a key strategy for prevention. To control mosquitos outside of your home, empty any containers that hold water, like buckets, flower pot saucers, or trash containers. Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. For prevention of mosquitoes in your home keep the windows and doors closed and use air conditioning when possible. To prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your home, once a week empty containers that hold water such as vases and flower pot saucers. Kill mosquitoes in your home by using an indoor fogger.
When outside wearing long pants and sleeves, this decreases area of skin exposed for mosquitoes to feed. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. When used as directed, an EPA-registered product ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for safety and effectiveness. EPA-registered insect repellents are even safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
When using these products:
- Always follow the product label instructions
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing
- If you are using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying the insect repellent.
Vector-borne illness, like those caused by mosquitoes are among the hardest infectious diseases to prevent and control. Prevention of mosquito bites is the only method to prevention of infection with viruses spread by mosquitoes. Taking preventative measures with clothing, insect repellent, and mosquito control around your home will decrease the chances of being exposed to an infectious disease carried by a mosquito. For more information go to CDC: www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/about.html