Fight the Bite! Manage Mosquitoes at Home

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By News Team on June 4, 2020

Are you growing mosquitoes in your backyard? After the nearly endless rains we’ve had recently, you might be. Standing water is the ideal mosquito breeding site; they mature in 10 to 14 days and can breed in less than a single ounce of water!

The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Pick-A-Day to Fight-the-Bite initiative encourages people to inspect their property once a week for standing water and empty or change it wherever they find it.

Some of the places water remains after a rain will surprise you. 

small plastic flowerpot breeding mosquitoes in stagnant water after rain
Shallow standing water is the ideal breeding environment for mosquitoes. Look carefully throughout your property and you may find a few mini-mosquito farms you didn't know were there.

Each household item in the following list could be a breeding site when left outside. “Fight the bite” by checking off each item as you go through your yard to empty or change the water you find.

  • Artificial fish ponds
  • Bird baths
  • Boat and cover
  • Drain pipes
  • Flower pots/trays
  • Items behind your shed
  • Items under your deck
  • Pet food/water bowls
  • Rain barrels and cisterns
  • Rain gutters
  • Recycling bins
  • Swimming pools
  • Tires/tire swings
  • Trash cans
  • Utility carts
  • Watering cans
  • Any other man-made items that hold water

While Zika is a common summer news story due to the considerable risk it poses for pregnant women, no U.S. cases of the virus have occurred locally. Zika typically is spread through travel, which is limited this year due to COVID-19, and to sexual activity. 

gutter clogged with leaves resulting in standing water after rain
Gutters that are damaged or clogged will hold rainwater and provide mosquito larvae with all the organic material they need to thrive.

"In this area, West Nile is a higher risk," says Thomas M. Kerkering, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.I.D.S.A., who teaches about infectious diseases at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

But the highest risk is of the welts and potential infections caused by mosquito bites. Children and people whose immune systems are compromised may experience an allergic reaction, including:

  • Fever
  • Hives and other large areas of red, irritated skin
  • Aching muscles or joints 
  • Swollen lymph nodes that are tender to the touch

Contact your health care provider or visit an urgent care center such as VelocityCare if you experience signs of infection.

Preventing mosquito-borne illness takes a two-pronged approach: prevent them from breeding and prevent them from biting.

VDH recommends four steps:

  1. Regularly empty all outside water containers (see the list above)
  2. Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET
  3. Wear long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes while outside
  4. Repair gaps in windows, doors and screens

Dr. Kerkering also recommends using products that contain at least 35 percent DEET.
"I recommend DEET because it has been proven to work," he said. "It is the only repellent that also works against ticks, and tick-borne diseases are more prevalent in southwest Virginia than mosquito-borne diseases."
He also recommends spraying a permethrin-containing insect repellent on your clothes.
"With DEET on the skin and permethrin on the clothes, that is pretty good protection," he said.

Find out more about mosquitoes from VDH's mosquito FAQ page.

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