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May 21, 2012

Protect Yourself and Your Family Against Mosquito Bites

FIGHT THE BITE - Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing, limiting outdoor activities in areas and during times when mosquitoes are most active, and minimizing mosquito populations around your house and property. Be sure to use insect repellent properly. Read the product label and follow package instructions. Photo courtesy of Sonia Robinson, Oswego County Health Department.

OSWEGO - With this year's unusual winter and early spring, the Oswego County Health Department is reminding people they need to be extra vigilant to protect against mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). These viral infections can cause serious illness such as severe headache, high fever, disorientation, seizures, brain swelling or, in some cases, death.

"The best defense we have against these viruses is to guard against mosquito bites," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, public health director for the Oswego County Health Department. "Protect yourself and your family by using insect repellent properly. Also, avoid the outdoors in areas or during times when mosquitoes are most active, wear protective clothing, and minimize mosquito populations around your house and property."

Insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus are effective but should be used with care. Repellents containing permethrin are meant for clothing and gear and should not be applied directly to the skin. Also, repellents containing DEET should not be applied to skin under clothing. Dr. Norfleet cautions residents to be sure to read the product label and use according to package instructions.

Another protective measure against mosquito bites is to limit outdoor activities in areas where mosquitoes are most active and between dusk and dawn which is the peak mosquito biting time.

Dr. Norfleet added, "We understand that keeping away from the outdoors isn't always practical. If you have to be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks as weather permits."

Other precautions people can take to minimize mosquito populations in and around their homes and properties are to repair or replace all window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, and reduce or eliminate all standing water.

These preventative measures include:

  • Dispose of old tires which are a significant mosquito breeding site. Used tires are accepted at Oswego County transfer stations. There is a minimum $10 disposal fee. Contact the Oswego County Solid Waste Department at 591-9200 for details.

  • Empty or dispose of pails, cans, flower pots, or similar water-holding containers.

  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.

  • Clear roof gutters and be sure they drain properly.

  • Turn over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use.

  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs and drain pool covers.

  • Change the water in birdbaths and horse troughs twice a week.

  • Remove leaf debris from yards and gardens and clean vegetation and debris from the edge of ponds.

  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

The health department begins its full-scale mosquito surveillance program the week of May 28. It includes double the number of mosquito trap sites over a larger area of the county as compared to last year. The New York State Department of Health laboratory will allow a greater number of mosquito samples sent in for testing this year as well.

For more information about protecting your family against mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547, or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.ny.us.

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