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West Nile virus: Protect yourself from mosquito bites

West Nile virus: Protect yourself from mosquito bites

Mosquito season is starting to rev up across much of the state. With more mosquito activity, the risk of West Nile virus (WNV) infection increases. The best way to prevent WNV is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

What are WNV symptoms?

You are more likely to get the virus if you are exposed to mosquito bites. Most people infected with WNV won’t even feel sick, but 1 in 5 will suffer a flu-like illness that can last longer than one week and, in some cases, more than three months. Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • extreme fatigue
  • head and body aches
  • a skin rash

However, a severe WNV infection can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis or even death. Adults older than 50 and those with a weakened immune system have the highest risk of severe disease.

Fight the Bite: Pay attention to the 5 Ds

There is no vaccine to prevent WNV. Also, there are no antiviral therapies for WNV, so prevention is the mainstay of protection. The best way to prevent an infection is to prevent mosquito bites. You can do that by remembering the “5 Ds”:

  • DAWN and DUSK are the peak mosquito-biting periods. Take extra care to use insect repellent and protective clothing during these periods.
  • DRESS in long sleeves, long pants, socks, and closed shoes during peak mosquito hours or when in areas of high mosquito activity, including near weeds and tall grass or around water.
  • DEET 30-35% is an effective insect repellent, but there are alternatives:
    • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
    • IR3535
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
    • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
    • 2-undecanone
  • DOORS and windows should have well-fitting screens. Check screens for holes that may allow mosquitoes inside.
  • DRAIN standing water around your home. Mosquitoes will breed and multiply in the stagnant water found in clogged gutters, empty wheelbarrows, and unused flowerpots.

More information about West Nile virus, mosquito activity in Boulder County and precautionary steps is available at