Protecting yourself from West Nile Disease

Protecting yourself from West Nile Disease

BY Shelly Harris BScN CCRN Rn-C

Has anybody noticed that the mosquito population has grown intolerably in the past few weeks?

And the risk of catching West Nile Disease for residents in many parts of the world, including Toronto, is low, but not zero.

As it does yearly, Toronto Public Health conducts mosquito surveillance from mid-June to September, setting 22 sites across the City, and recent results have tested positive in Scarborough.

Caused by the West Nile virus, this potentially serious illness is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. While not every mosquito carries the virus, residents must take necessary precautions to reduce their risk of infection. This article will explore essential steps residents should take to avoid West Nile Disease and safeguard their health during mosquito season.

First off, eliminate standing water from your yards. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, making it imperative for residents to remove any potential breeding grounds around their homes. Regularly check and empty water from flowerpots, bird baths, gutters, old tires, and other water containers. Ensure that water does not accumulate in outdoor receptacles, as these are ideal mosquito breeding spots.

Applying mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin can provide adequate protection against mosquito bites. Remember to follow the instructions on the product label and avoid using repellents on infants. When spending time outdoors, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquito activity is highest, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants can also provide an extra layer of protection.

If you don’t have window screens, lost or ripped, secure your home by installing window and door screens with fine mesh. This simple measure can keep mosquitoes out while allowing fresh air to circulate through your living spaces. Check and repair any damaged screens to ensure no entry points for mosquitoes.

Keep your outdoor areas well-maintained.

Trimming bushes and tall grasses around your property can significantly reduce mosquito hiding spots. Additionally, consider using outdoor fans on patios and decks, as the breeze they create makes it difficult for mosquitoes to fly and land.

Stay informed about the West Nile Virus activity in your area. Local health departments often provide updates on disease transmission and prevention measures. If there is an outbreak in your area, take extra precautions and follow any guidance issued by health authorities.

Make sure to protect your pets. Like humans, animals can also contract West Nile Disease from infected mosquitoes. Protect your pets by keeping them indoors during peak mosquito activity hours and using pet-safe mosquito repellents. Ensure that their outdoor living spaces are free of standing water.

West Nile Disease poses a significant health risk, especially during mosquito season. Taking the necessary precautions is vital for residents to protect themselves and their families from the potentially severe consequences of infection. By eliminating mosquito breeding sites, using repellents, installing screens, maintaining outdoor areas, staying informed, and safeguarding pets, residents can reduce their risk of contracting the West Nile virus and enjoy a safer and healthier summer season.