Virginia prepares for mosquito borne diseases

The Virginia Department of Health has reminded residents that mosquito season has arrived, and with it the risk of mosquito-transmitted viral diseases that can cause brain inflammation/encephalitis in humans. Eliminating water that stands in containers for more than a week, repairing window and door screens, trimming shrubbery and grass around the house and disposing of any rubbish around the house that may hold even small amounts of water helps reduce the available breeding habitat for mosquitoes around homes.

“We know that West Nile virus is widespread throughout Virginia,” explained State Health Commissioner, Robert B. Stroube, M.D., M.P.H. “Other diseases carried and transmitted by mosquitoes are also present in different areas of the state. Protecting yourself and your family is as simple as eliminating standing water around the yard, dressing appropriately and using an insect repellant when going outdoors.”

This year West Nile virus programs are being tailored by Health Districts to suit local needs and resources. Efforts may include testing mosquitoes or dead birds for the virus, collecting phone reports of dead birds, collecting information about other animals that can be infected, such as chickens or horses, and providing community education and outreach. Not all localities will test birds for West Nile virus. Contact local health departments for more information.

Last year 31 human cases of mosquito borne diseases were reported in Virginia. Of those, 26 were West Nile virus (WNV) cases, four were La Crosse encephalitis (LAC) cases and one case was an Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE) case. Two deaths, one from WNV and one from EEE, were reported.

Anyone can become seriously ill from a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Most people who become ill from a mosquito borne disease will not have any symptoms. People over 50 are at greater risk for serious illness from WNV and EEE, while children under 16 are at higher risk for serious illness from LAC. “The greatest risk of infection for most people is in our own backyards,” Suzanne Jenkins V.M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Division of Environmental and Zoonotic Epidemiology stressed. “We hope that people will take time to eliminate standing water and perform the standard maintenance around the house so that they and their neighbors can enjoy a safer, healthier summer.”

The Virginia Department of Health recommends the following tips to reduce exposure to mosquitoes:

  • Turn over or remove containers in your yard where water collects, such as old tires, potted plant trays, buckets and toys and fill in any holes in the yard left by downed trees.
  • Eliminate standing water on tarps or flat roofs.
  • Clean out birdbaths and wading pools once a week.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspout screens regularly.
  • Wear long, loose and light-colored clothing.
  • Use insect repellent products with no more than 50 percent DEET for adults and no more than 30 percent for children. Follow instructions when using insect repellents.

For more information on mosquito borne diseases, log onto the Virginia Department of Health’s Web site at


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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