Friday, July 02, 2010

Shoo fly: Mosquito, don’t bother me!

Summer is here. While visiting the beach and tantalizing your taste buds at backyard barbeques, don’t forget about the little insects that can sneak up on you when least expected — mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can be irritating, but sometimes these pesky pests can carry much more than an itchy bite. Some may carry disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 people died in the United States in 2009 due to West Nile virus, and 720 people reported symptoms of the virus. West Nile virus, spread by infected mosquitoes, is a serious, yet preventable disease that everyone should be aware of in warmer months.

Another mosquito-borne disease causing renewed concern in the United States is dengue fever. It’s usually found in tropical regions, but has returned to the U.S. mainland. Infections have occurred in Florida, and it may spread as changes occur in climate and global travel increases.

So there’s more than one good reason to avoid mosquito bites. What to do? CDC offers a Fight the Bite Guide (PDF) that gives tips on protecting yourself from mosquitoes and avoiding infections. Here are a few things to get started:

• Repel ‘em: One effective way to keep the mosquitoes at bay is to apply repellent. Repellents with DEET and Picardin have longer lasting protection, according to CDC. Pay special attention when using repellents on children and read the labels before applying.

• Keep your home mosquito-free: That unassuming baby pool in your backyard with the three-day-old water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The mosquitoes love to lay their eggs there (yuck!) so eliminate any standing water in your area.

• Protect your community: Help keep your neighborhood safe by cleaning up places where mosquitoes live and lay eggs, and learn more about controlling mosquitoes and the spread of disease where you live.

While your chances of getting sick from just one bite are low, you should still be mindful that even one bite could pose a serious, even deadly, health risk. So protect yourself and your loved ones, and enjoy the summer.

Photo Credit: Photo by James Gathany, courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library

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