Protecting yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses

Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus both have claimed victims in Alabama in the last decade.

While West Nile virus is more common, EEE is a much more serious disease. Mosquitoes are the primary carriers for EEE and WNV.

According to Dr. Joan Colfer, executive director of the Collier County Health Department in Florida, the breed of mosquito transmits equine encephalitis in swamps and transmits West Nile virus thrive in floodwater and ditches after heavy rainfall. In contrast, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever prefers to live in porches and inside homes. They can breed in a cap of water and need only a very small amount of water to breed.

People can reduce their risk of contracting a mosquito-borne illness by taking some simple steps to reduce mosquito-breeding sites. It is vital, at this peak mosquito season, that everyone takes appropriate measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

-Dispose of discarded tires and soft drink cans. Store containers, such as buckets, in garages or barns, if you must leave them outside, turn them over so they do not collect rainwater. Turn over plastic wading pools or wheelbarrows when not in use.

Additional tips include:

-Do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths.

-Drain outside standing water.

-Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish

-Use floating Bt briquettes to control mosquito larvae. One briquette lasts about 30 days and treats 100 square feet of surface water. They are available in pet stores or stores that sell pond supplies.

-Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use.

-Make sure windows and doors have screens.

-Keeping vegetation trimmed low can eliminate resting sites.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, take precautions to reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes by employing personal and household protection measures. Wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods or when mosquitoes are most active. You may want to use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, applied according to label directions.

Nelson Wynn is a regional agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. He can be reached by e–mail at