Five Common Myths about West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes. Infection with the virus can cause
severe and sometimes fatal illness. There were over 4000 cases of West Nile
disease in the US during 2002, including 284 deaths. It is likely that all
mainland states in the United States will see West Nile virus activity in 2003.
To help you prepare for mosquito season, read the truth about some common
West Nile virus myths:
Myth #1: There's not much I can do about West Nile virus.
Truth: There is a lot that you, personally, can do to reduce your
chance of West Nile virus infection.
- Reduce the number of mosquito bites you get. Make a habit of
using insect repellent with DEET when outdoors. Spray repellent on exposed
skin and clothing. Get the
details about safe repellent use.
- Prime mosquito-biting hours are usually dusk to dawn. Pay special
attention to protection during these hours, or avoid being outdoors.
- You can reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so check your yard once a week: get rid
of containers that aren't being used, empty water from flower pots, change
water in bird baths and maintain clean gutters.
- Make sure window and door screens are in good condition. Have an
older neighbor or family member? See if they need help installing or
Myth #2: Kids are at the most danger of getting sick from West Nile virus.
Truth: People over 50 are at the highest risk for developing severe
West Nile disease.
- Relatively few children have been reported with severe West Nile Virus
disease. By contrast, most of the deaths due to WNV during 2002 were among
people over 50 years old. Half of those deaths were among people over 77
- It is always a good idea for children to avoid mosquito bites, but it's
also important for adults - especially older adults - to take steps to avoid
Myth #3: It's only people who are already in poor health who have to worry
about West Nile virus.
Truth: Healthy, active older adults who spend time working and
exercising outdoors have been affected by severe West Nile virus infection.
- Being over 50 is a risk factor for developing severe West Nile disease
if infected with the virus. There is a risk of getting mosquito bites while
leading an active life outdoors. This doesn't mean you have to stay inside -
it does mean that it's important to use repellent when you go outside.
Myth #4: Repellents containing DEET are not safe.
Truth: Repellents containing DEET are very safe when used according to
- Because DEET is so widely used, a great deal of testing has been done.
When manufacturers seek registration with the US Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) for products such as DEET, laboratory testing regarding both
short-term and long-term health effects must be carried out.
- There are products with different strengths (percentage of DEET)
available. The longer the protection you need the higher percent of DEET
- Repellent with DEET can be used for both adults and children, according
- Click here for much more
information on using repellents safely.
Myth #5: As long as my area has a mosquito control program, I don't have
to worry about using repellent.
Truth: Mosquito control activities don't eliminate every mosquito, so
personal protection is still important.
- Public activities, such as using products to kill mosquito larvae and
adult mosquitoes, are one part of control. Personal protection, such as
using repellent, keeping window screens in good condition, and control of
household breeding sites are other important steps.
- Collaboration between the community, the family and the individual is
needed to achieve the best prevention of West Nile virus infection.
The above information has been provided with the kind permission
of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov)
Last Editorial Review: 5/25/2005