Protect yourself from mosquitoes

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 12, 2004

An unwelcome harbinger of summer has returned to Alabama. This week, an 80-year-old Mobile man became the state’s first reported case of a human with West Nile Virus this year. The serious, even deadly, disease has become a loathed part of our summers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Nile Virus is a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues in the fall. Spread most often through infected mosquitoes (who have fed on infected birds), West Nile Virus attacks the central nervous system. In severe cases, symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, coma, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. In milder cases, about 20 percent of those infected, symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and a skin rash. Oddly, some 80 percent of people infected never exhibit any symptoms. Most at risk are people over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems.

Our best recourse is a good defense. The CDC recommends several simple, common-sense approaches to minimizing the danger of being bitten by mosquitoes:

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n When you are outdoors, use insect repellents containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-metatourlamide). Always follow directions on the package).

n Avoid peak activity times for mosquitoes – between dusk and dawn. If you must be outside then, wear long sleeves and pants and be sure to use insect repellent.

n Make sure you have good screens on windows and doors, to keep mosquitoes out.

n Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water will drain. And keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use.

A little common sense can go a long way toward protecting you and your loved ones this summer.