By Andrew Solomon

shutterstock_121589446This is part 3 of a 4 part series highlighting “summer germs” this week (June 24 – June 28).

Mosquito-borne illnesses are illnesses spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. In Boston, mosquitoes can spread West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). People can get WNV or EEE when an infected mosquito bites them. Mosquitoes get these diseases from birds, but people cannot get WNV or EEE from birds. Although WNV and EEE are rare and it is unlikely you will get sick from a mosquito bite in Boston, cases can occur. Most people bitten with an infected mosquito experience no symptoms or mild symptoms.  Anyone can develop serious illness from EEE, but people over age 50 are more likely to experience serious illness from WNV. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop high fever, confusion, severe headache, stiff neck, or if your eyes become sensitive to light.

Mosquitoes are most active and most likely to carry WNV or EEE from July to September, or until the first hard frost (as late as November). It is important to consider protecting yourself from mosquito bites during this time, especially if you are out from dusk to dawn. You can also help limit the number of mosquitoes in your neighborhood by preventing mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes will breed in stagnant water around your home, such as water sitting in empty flowerpots, buckets, or other containers. It takes one week for mosquitoes to grow into adults and begin to fly, so cleaning out containers holding water once a week can help prevent mosquito breeding. Follow these steps to prevent mosquito bites and mosquito breeding:

Prevent Mosquito Bites:

  • Use a mosquito repellent containing DEET (concentrations of 30% or less), oil of lemon eucalyptus, Picaridin, or IR3535 while outside.
  • Read repellent labels and only apply approved repellents to pets.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks whenever possible. Tuck your shirt into your pants to keep mosquitoes from going under your clothes.
  • Limit the time you spend outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Make sure window and door screens don’t have holes in them. Screens in good condition will help prevent mosquitoes from getting in your house.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding:

  • Turn over or cover up unused flowerpots, buckets, garbage cans, and wheelbarrows.
  • Change water in bird baths once a week.
  • Cover unused swimming pools and turn over kiddie pools when not in use.
  • Cover or dispose of old tires.

Contact your healthcare provider or the Boston Public Health Commission at (617) 534-5611 or with additional questions on mosquito-borne illnesses or other “summer germs”. If you need help locating a healthcare provider or getting health insurance, contact the Mayor’s Health Line at (617) 534-5050.

Andrew Solomon is a project manager with the Public Health Commission, supporting the Infectious Disease Bureau in Education & Outreach.