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May 03

Fight the Bite: Prevent and Protect Against Mosquitoes and Other Disease Carrying Insects

Posted on May 3, 2017 at 2:35 PM by Susan Finarelli

By Susan Finarelli, Office of Communications

NOTE: The City of Falls Church contracts with the Fairfax County Health Department for services like public education on preventing and protecting against mosquitoes. City residents are welcome to contact the Fairfax County Health Department with questions on the following information.

Covered in this blog post: mosquito prevention and ticks and Lyme disease prevention.

Mosquito Prevention
Mosquito season is here and those pesky bloodsuckers are not just a nuisance, they can also transmit viruses such as West Nile, Chikungunya and Zika. Now is the perfect time to eliminate potential breeding sites in and around your yard where mosquitoes like to lay their eggs.
Prevent mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood and protect yourself from their bites by taking the steps outlined below during the spring, summer and fall.

Control mosquitoes in your yard:
  • Eliminate standing water. Tip and toss standing water from containers like tires, buckets, flower pots, corrugated drain pipes, tarps, bird baths, toys, etc. Discard containers or place indoors.
  • Treat standing water with a larvicide* if it cannot be eliminated. Mosquito-specific, environmentally-friendly larvicides are available. If you can’t get rid of the water, treat it to control mosquito larvae.
  • If mosquitoes are biting, you may want to treat your yard with an insecticide*. Used carefully and properly, an insecticide can help control biting mosquitoes. Pay particular attention to bushy green plants, ivy, other ground-covering plants and bamboo, which provide good hiding places for mosquitoes. Insecticides for your yard are available at your local hardware or home and garden store.
  • Organize a neighborhood clean-up. Get rid of litter and debris, discard old tires and manage vegetation that mosquitoes may be using as hiding places.
Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:
  • Wear insect repellent* containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 as the active ingredient.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants to minimize your exposure to mosquitoes.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and make sure screens are in good repair.
*Use EPA-registered insecticides, larvicides and repellents. Follow label instructions.

While these precautions will help prevent mosquito bites, it is still important to watch out for the signs and symptoms of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika and West Nile. Symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms of West Nile virus range from mild (fever, headache, body aches or a skin rash on the upper body) to serious (high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, weakness, paralysis or coma).

Consult your physician if you think you may be sick with a mosquito-borne illness. Keeping mosquitoes away is not only good for your quality of life; it’s good for your health!

Ticks and Lyme Disease Prevention
Preventing tick bites is the best way to prevent tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. It is important to be extra vigilant during the warm months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. Lyme disease is spread through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Only the blacklegged, or deer tick, transmits the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The Fairfax County Health Department (the contracted health department of the City of Falls Church) provides a free tick identification service.

There are seven steps you can take to prevent ticks:
  1. Avoid direct contact with ticks. Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails. Learn how to maintain a tick-free yard.
  2. Bottle of DEET with capeUse a repellent containing DEET. Repellents with DEET can be applied to exposed skin to help repel ticks. Follow the label instructions.
  3. Wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants so ticks don't have easy access to your skin. It's easier to see ticks when they are crawling on light-colored clothes.
  4. Use permethrin on clothing. Permethrin kills ticks and there are formulations to treat your clothes sold at sporting goods stores. Follow the instructions on the label.
  5. Check for ticks. While outside, take breaks to check yourself for ticks. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. Do a thorough check at the end of the day; use a mirror or have someone help you check the hard-to-see places on your body.
  6. Promptly remove any attached ticks. Don't panic if you find an attached tick. Learn how to remove ticks properly.
  7. Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine animals, coats and backpacks.
The transmission of diseases from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before several hours of tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing any attached tick that you find will help prevent infection. To remove attached ticks, use the following procedure:
  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or shield your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or rubber gloves, when removing the tick; otherwise infectious agents may enter through mucous membranes and breaks in the skin.
  2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.
  3. DO NOT twist or jerk the tick; this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
  4. DO NOT squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain infectious organisms.
  5. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.
  6. Bring the tick to the Health Department for free Tick Identification Service (note: not a testing service).

For more information, visit www.fallschurchva.gov/FightTheBite, call 703-246-8931 (TTY 711), or email fightthebite@fairfaxcounty.gov.