Backyard barbecues are a time-honored tradition on Labor Day Weekend, but this year public health officials are recommending that residents take extra measures to protect themselves against unwanted guests — mosquitoes.
Responsible for the spread of West Nile virus in 47 states, including California, the tiny pests with a big bite have caused 41 deaths so far this year, according to the Center for Disease Control. It’s the highest number of WNV infections since it was first reported in the United States in 1999.
Most of the cases are in Texas, but recent reports of infections in people have occurred , according to public health officials.
While most who become infected with WNV don’t even know it due to lack of symptoms, about 20 percent of people will develop West Nile fever, characterized by fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes and at times, a rash, according to the CDC.
Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms, such as disorientation, tremors and coma. West Nile fever can persist for days or weeks and can be fatal.
Protect yourself against WNV this holiday weekend by minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes with these tips:
- Avoid mosquito-infested areas, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Mosquitoes can breed in standing water. Eliminate standing water on your property by dumping or draining water in neglected ponds, birdbaths, fountains, buckets, old tires or anything that can hold water. Dumping or draining water will interrupt the mosquito life cycle.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you plan to be outdoors at dawn or dusk.
- Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Residents should follow instructions on the label. Consult with your child’s pediatrician for appropriate concentrations of DEET to be used on children under the age of two.
- Keep tight-fitting screens on doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering homes and check to make sure your window screens are in good condition.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and drain water from pool covers.
- Limit the watering of lawns and outdoor plants to twice a week to avoid runoff to gutters and around sprinklers.
Are you worried about West Nile Virus? Share your concerns and tips for preventing mosquito bites in the comments.