What can I do to reduce my risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus?

From May to October, when mosquitoes are most active, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid being outside during times of high mosquito activity, specifically around dawn and dusk.
  • If outside from dusk to dawn or in an area with weeds, tall grass, or bushes, wear protective clothing, such as long pants, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, and socks, and consider using an insect repellent containing DEET.

Products with a low concentration of DEET may be appropriate for situations where exposure to mosquitoes is minimal. Higher concentrations of DEET may be useful in highly infested areas or with species that are more difficult to repel. An effective repellent will contain 35% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET in high concentrations (greater than 35%) provides no additional protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more than 10% DEET. 

Consider using non-chemical ways to deter biting insects, such as protective clothing (as outlined above), window and door screens, and wearable netting when camping.

Recommendations When Using DEET

  • Use according to the manufacturer's directions on the label.
  • Pregnant women should take care to avoid exposure to DEET whenever practical.
  • Do not allow children to handle mosquito repellent.
  • Do not apply DEET directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • DEET is effective for approximately 4 hours. Avoid prolonged or excessive use. 
  • Use sparingly to cover exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply to skin covered by clothing.
  • Wash all treated skin and clothing with soap and water after returning indoors
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin
  • Store DEET out of reach of children

Note: vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, and incense have not been shown to be effective in preventing mosquito bites.

Show All Answers

1. What is West Nile virus?
2. How is West Nile Virus spread?
3. Are older adults more at risk for West Nile Virus?
4. Where did West Nile virus come from?
5. Can you get West Nile virus directly from birds?
6. Besides mosquitoes, can you get West Nile virus directly from other insects or ticks?
7. What are the symptoms of West Nile viral infection?
8. Is a woman's pregnancy at risk if she gets West Nile virus?
9. How is West Nile encephalitis treated?
10. Is there a vaccine against West Nile virus?
11. How long does it take to get sick if bitten by an infected mosquito?
12. What should I do if I think I have West Nile encephalitis?
13. What can I do to reduce my risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus?
14. What can I do around my home to help reduce exposure to mosquitoes?
15. If I live in an area where birds or mosquitoes with West Nile virus have been reported, and I am bitten by a mosquito, am I likely to get sick?
16. I've gotten a mosquito bite. Should I be tested for West Nile virus?
17. Should I report dead birds to the Health Department?
18. If a dead bird is not going to be collected, how should it be disposed of?