(WPRI) — Mosquito bites are not just annoying — the insects can carry and spread diseases. The best way to keep from getting sick is to take steps to prevent mosquito bites in the first place.
Below is important information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about some of the more common mosquito-borne diseases and prevention:
Prevention & Control
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing.
- The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes.
- Always follow the directions on the package.
- CDC: Which repellents work best?
- Wear long sleeves, socks and pants when weather permits.
- Take care during mosquito biting hours from dusk to dawn
- If outside, use repellent
- Avoid outdoor activities during these times
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
- Have secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by:
- Emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets, barrels, gutters and other containers.
- Drilling holes in tire swings so water drains out.
- Keeping children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
West Nile Virus
- Most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes
- Anyone living in an area where West Nile virus is present in mosquitoes can get infected.
- West Nile virus has been detected in all lower 48 states (not in Hawaii or Alaska).
- The incubation period is usually 2 to 6 days but ranges from 2 to 14 days.
- Most people are infected from June through September
According to the CDC, most people (70%-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.
About one in five people may develop other symptoms including:
- Body aches
- Joint pains
- Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months
Fewer than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms of neurologic illness can include:
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
Recovery from a neurologic illness can take weeks or months. The CDC said about 10% of people who develop a neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
According to the CDC, eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) is a member of the genus Alphavirus, family Togaviridae. EEEV is closely related to western equine encephalitis virus and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus.
- Average of six human cases a year
- Largest number of cases are in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey
- Transmission most common in and around freshwater hardwood swamps
- Incubation is four to 10 days
- People over the age of 50 are most at risk of developing symptoms from West Nile virus
EEEV infection can result in one of two types of illness: systemic or encephalitic (EEE). Systemic infection lasts 1 to 2 weeks; recovery is complete when there is no central nervous system involvement. It has an abrupt onset and is characterized by:
In infants, the encephalitic form is characterized by abrupt onset; in older children and adults, encephalitis is manifested after a few days of systemic illness. Signs and symptoms in encephalitic patients are:
- Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread Chikungunya and dengue.
- These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and they can also bite at night.
- Mosquitoes can become infected by biting an infected human, and then spread the virus to other people through bites.
- The virus can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
- According to the CDC, one in five people infected with Zika will get sick, though the illness us usually mild.
- The CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to regions where ZIka virus transmission is ongoing.
- CDC LINK: Zika Travel Information
- No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus.
According to the CDC, most of the people who get Zika may not even realize they have it because the symptoms are often mild and can include:
- Joint Pain
- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
- Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Zika and Pregnancy
The Zika virus can be more serious for pregnant women and their unborn babies. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. The CDC recommends pregnant women:
- Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing
- If you must travel, consult with your doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip
- CDC Link: Zika and Pregnancy