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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

August 19, 2008

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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Read more about West Nile Virus and ways to prevent it.

With the warmer months comes mosquitoes. And when I was growing up, mosquito bites were an accepted part of the season.

At that time, no one had heard of West Nile Virus, a potentially serious illness spread by mosquitoes. In recent years, this virus has become common in the United States, making it important to be vigilant about mosquitoes so we can avoid becoming infected.

I'm Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services, here to talk to you about West Nile Virus.

The virus is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected after feeding on an infected bird or horse. Not all mosquitoes transmit the virus. And there is currently no evidence that it can be transmitted from person to person.

Although most infected people show no or few symptoms of West Nile Virus, it can cause serious illness and occasionally even death, especially in the elderly, so it is important to protect against mosquitoes.

Try to limit the amount of time spent outdoors between the hours of dusk and dawn during the months of May through October, when mosquitoes are particularly active.

And very importantly, protect yourself from West Nile Virus when you are outside. Use insect repellent to help prevent mosquito bites. Make sure that your insect repellent contains ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors also can help reduce the risk of being bitten.

Another effective way to reduce the risk of getting West Nile Virus is to eliminate any standing water around your home. Standing water is the breeding ground of mosquitoes. Make sure to dispose of any container that might collect water on your property, including flower pots and old tires.

Changing the water in birdbaths every three to four days, aerating and stocking ornamental ponds with mosquitofish and cleaning clogged roof gutters will also eliminate places for mosquitoes to breed.

Make sure your screens are in good order and fix any holes in screen doors and windows. Check to ensure they are securely attached to keep mosquitoes outside.

Following these guidelines will help protect against West Nile Virus. For more information, visit our website at

Thanks for listening.

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