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Protect your family against West Nile

n Keep your family healthy with these tips

Posted: August 7, 2008 7:29 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 

As summer reaches it zenith families spend more time outdoors - enjoying water play, barbecues, picnics, sports and other family activities. However, with the outdoor fun comes a risk of exposure to West Nile Virus - a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

West Nile Virus is spread by infected mosquitoes are most active dusk to dawn.

No human case of West Nile Virus has been detected in the Santa Clarita Valley, but infected birds and mosquitoes have been found, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health and health officer for Los Angeles County.

There is no treatment for West Nile Virus, and the risk of severe illness and death is highest for people over 50 years old, although people of all ages can become ill.

How can you protect your family against West Nile Virus?

Among the suggestions to keep your outdoors family fun friendly:
n Keep yards and neighborhoods free of standing water that can breed mosquitoes.
n Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks when outside from dusk to dawn.
n Use mosquito repellents when outside.
n When outdoors burn citronella candles, run a fan and use a bug zapper.

Keep mosquitoes away

Loraine Stern, M.D., of Valencia Pediatric Associates, urges parents to be aware of where mosquitoes might breed.

"Avoid standing water where mosquitoes breed, get rid of any puddles that might show up after watering," Stern said.

Empty buckets, old tires, stagnant ponds and abandoned pools can all be fertile breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

For ponds and other water features it is important to keep the water moving and filtered. Adding small, inexpensive "mosquito fish" to the water will also keep the mosquito population in check.

In addition, install tight fitting window screens to keep mosquitoes from entering your home. Ripped or torn screens should be replaced or repaired.

Residents are also urged to form neighborhood committees that can organize groups to clean up standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

All family members should be told to avoid touching any dead birds that might be contaminated with the West Nile Virus.

Appropriate clothing

The first line of defense against getting a mosquito bite is to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks when outside from dusk to dawn.

Stern said to avoid children outside at twilight.

"If children are outside, hiking or camping, make sure they wear long sleeves and long pants," she said.

"The clothes can be lightweight."

Use repellent

Fielding said mosquito repellents that use DEET and the newer chemical picaridin have similar effectiveness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based in Atlanta report estimated protection time varies by study and type of mosquito being tested, but the range for both has been between 3 and 7 hours in most studies.

Stern said that if children need to use repellent it should be a product that uses less than 10 percent DEET or picaridin.

"It is important to be very careful with very young children," Fielding said. "No one wants to use chemicals unless it is absolutely necessary."

Spraying clothes with products that use picaridin or DEET is extremely effective and keeps mosquitoes from biting through clothes according to the CDC.

Length of protection from mosquito bites varies with the amount of active ingredient, temperature, amount of physical activity/perspiration, any water exposure and other factors. For long duration protection use a long lasting (micro-encapsulated) formula and re-apply as necessary, according to label instructions.

Keeping bugs away

To keep mosquitoes away from areas where family members gather a variety of options may, or may not help. Among the products commercially available to help keep limited areas of outdoor space relatively bug free are insecticide foggers, bug zappers - from expensive propane models to inexpensive battery operated products, citronella candles, incense, lavender sprays, eucalyptus oil and a variety of other natural products.

Experienced camper Nicco Nordhoff, of Valencia, swears by a sturdy fan that blows the mosquitoes away.

"Nothing helps keep mosquitoes away like a stiff breeze," he said.

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