West Nile virus usually peaks between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15 in Georgia, but this year doctors are seeing an earlier start.
Elmer Gray, a public health entomologist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, suggests that everyone in the state should take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes and possibly contracting West Nile virus.
Wearing light-colored clothing will help keep mosquitoes at bay, but the most effective thing people can do to protect themselves, Gray said, is use insect repellent whenever they’re outside in a mosquito-prone area—like on a ball field, in the yard or out in the woods. He prefers products with DEET because they have been tested and proven safe for children as young as two months old. There are several other commercially available, EPA approved repellents, like picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil and IR3535.
“I don’t recommend trying a homemade repellent,” Gray said. “Mosquito-borne diseases are serious. They cause encephalitis—an inflammation of the nervous system.”
People can help cut down on the mosquito population by getting rid of anything around their home that could hold standing water and provide the insects with an additional breeding habitats. They also can buy larvacidal briquettes to use in fishponds, rain barrels or rain gardens that can’t be emptied.
Homeowners also need to make any needed repairs to window screens to keep mosquitoes from coming inside the house.