The most important thing citizens can do to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus is to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around the home and limit exposure to feeding mosquitoes. Many female mosquitoes can lay 100-300 eggs on the surface of fresh or stagnant water every third night during its life span. Here are some simple things citizens can do to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites around the home:
- Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns, or in pet dishes for more than two days.
- Get rid of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools, or other containers that collect and hold water.
- Clean debris from rain gutters, remove standing water from flat roofs, and repair leaks around faucets and air conditioners.
- Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.
- Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas.
- Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools, and arrange the tarp to drain the water.
- Report abandoned property with high grass and standing water by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to include the address, the problem, and a phone number if you wish to be contacted. You may also upload pictures if you wish.
Practice the Four D’s
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness. Up to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms and will recover on their own; however, some cases can cause serious illness or death. People over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming ill if they become infected with the virus.
The best defense is to practice these habits, known as the “Four Ds”:
- Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- Dress in long sleeves and long pants when you are outside.
- Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots, and clogged rain gutters.
To learn more about West Nile virus, see the Texas Department of State Health Services fact sheet.