All this hot, humid weather and heavy rain in our area are a recipe for rampant mosquitoes. That means we should take precautions against the West Nile Virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, and the Westchester County Health Department is doing just that.
In other parts of the U.S. last summer’s West Nile Virus outbreaks were the deadliest ever, reaching their peak in August. So far this year there have been no cases in Westchester and very few cases in past years.
In May, the health department started testing catch basins on roads throughout the area that contain standing water and applying larvicide as needed — part of its West Nile Virus Prevention Program. No positive batches of mosquitoes have been found to date.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), very few people actually develop serious or fatal illness if infected with West Nile Virus, even though there are no medications to treat the infection or vaccines to prevent them. “About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness,” says the CDC.
Which insect repellent is best?
The CDC recommends using an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products. In tests on several of these products, Yonkers-based Consumer Reports found most brands will work well for short periods, but if you want longer-lasting protection, the testers found Off and Deep Woods products with the active ingredient DEET in concentrations under 30% did a good job. (Watch video on how they test.)
For children, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using repellents with DEET concentrations higher than 30 percent. Products with any amount of DEET should not be used on infants under two months according to the Academy. And products with the active ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus are not recommended for children under 3. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an online search tool for finding the insect repellent that’s best for your family’s needs taking into consideration the length and types of exposure.
Finally, experts generally warn not to use a sunscreen containing insect repellent as sunscreens are meant to be applied liberally, which may result in a dose of insect repellent that is too high.
editor: check out natural mosquito eradication program at Larchmont Nursery: 914 834-5802
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.