John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
First, a community can monitor the bird population, including surveillance of birds that are sick or have died of disease, for the virus.
Second, the community can watch out for stagnant water, particularly if it is nutrient-laden; it is inviting for Culex mosquitoes.
Third, widespread mosquito-control efforts, including the use of spraying and larvacide, may be warranted. However, even with rigorous surveillance, spraying, and larvaciding, the virus may still infect people.
What can a person do to reduce the risk of becoming infected with
the West Nile virus?
The following recommendations can help reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus:
Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent contains 20%-30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET in high concentrations (greater than 30%) may cause side effects, particularly in children. Avoid products containing more than 30% DEET.
Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children. Insect repellents should not be applied to very young children (under 3 years of age).
Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing.
Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, as printed on the product.
Take preventive measures in and around your home. Repair or install door and window screens, use air conditioning, and reduce breeding sites (eliminate standing water).
If you find a dead bird, the CDC recommends you not handle the carcass with bare hands. Contact your local health department for instructions for the notification procedure and disposing of the carcass. They may tell you to dispose of the bird after they log your report.
Note: Vitamin B and "ultrasonic" devices are not effective in preventing mosquito bites.
Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease
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