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Mosquito Season Means West Nile Virus Season in Illinois

Naturalist David Mizejewski, National Wildlife Federation, said the best protection is prevention. That can come, in part, by eliminating standing pools of water around the outside of your home, he said. Courtesy of Joaquim Alves Gaspar
Naturalist David Mizejewski, National Wildlife Federation, said the best protection is prevention. That can come, in part, by eliminating standing pools of water around the outside of your home, he said. Courtesy of Joaquim Alves Gaspar
June 10, 2013

CHICAGO - 'Tis the season when your time outside in the growing warmth is accompanied by the buzzes and bites of mosquitoes, and the Illinois Department of Public Health has found its first batch of mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus.

According to David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, the best protection from mosquito bites is prevention, and that can come, in part, by eliminating standing pools of water around the outside of your home.

"Some species of mosquito, they only need, like, an inch of water, so water standing in the bottom of a flower pot or in clogged gutters, or in children's toys that are left out in the yard, these are all potential breeding places for mosquitoes," he pointed out.

When hiking, wear long sleeves and long pants if possible. If you choose repellents, the health department says those with DEET work best. Or, if you prefer a natural repellent, plants containing certain types of oils, such as lemon balm, can offer relief.

Mizejewski said mosquitoes target humans through a chemical trail we unknowingly leave in our wakes.

It's made up "of carbon dioxide and other chemicals that our bodies emit through our skin but mostly through respiration when we exhale," he said. "And that's how the female mosquitoes, which are the only ones that bite, that's how they kind of track you down."

Mizejewski said nature has provided us with one more weapon to use against the mosquito.

"Mosquitoes are really weak fliers, and sometimes, in a very limited area, all you really need is a strong breeze, maybe like a large fan."

The naturalist said the relatively cold and wet spring in Illinois this year is giving mosquitoes a favorable climate in which to thrive.

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends remembering the Three Rs: Reduce exposure to mosquitoes, especially between dusk and dawn; Repel mosquitoes by applying insect repellent; and Report dead birds that may have fallen prey to West Nile Virus to your local health department.

More information is at idph.state.il.us.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL