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West Nile Virus Prevention

by emmeline — last modified Aug 29, 2012 12:00 PM

This week, two human cases of the West Nile Virus were confirmed in Oregon. Here's how to protect yourself.


This week, two cases of the West Nile Virus were confirmed in Oregon- the first outbreak among humans since 2009. Health officials are urging people to protect themselves during the upcoming Labor Day weekend, which coincides with “peak” West Nile Virus season.

Previously, the virus had only been detected in animals, through which the disease amplifies and spreads. The virus first passes through mosquito vectors, which bite and infect birds. The infected birds then serve as virus-amplifying hosts, and transmit the infection to other mosquitoes, which go on to bite other birds and humans.

The virus itself is rarely fatal, but symptoms of serious illness include fever, headache, chills, excessive sweating, swollen lymph nodes, flu-like symptoms, and in rare cases, encephalitis (the inflammation of the brain).

Fortunately, pesticide-free prevention is both easy and accessible. If you are going camping or even just hanging out in your backyard this Labor Day weekend, we strongly suggest a few precautionary measures to protect yourself and your family.

  • Eliminate sources of standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This includes watering troughs, bird baths, clogged rain gutters, old tires, flower pots, pet food and water dishes, swimming pool covers, buckets, cans, etc. Any item that can collect water can also collect mosquito pools.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outside.
  • Place mosquito netting over infant carriers.
  • Peak mosquito biting hours are at dawn, dusk, and early evening - consider remaining indoors at these times.
  • Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes can’t get indoors.
  • Use botanical repellents such as oil of citronella, lemon eucalyptus, and garlic, all of which can be found in many eco-friendly lotions and sprays.

If you’re feeling particularly whimsical, here are a few more eco-friendly and fun ways to protect yourself from the West Nile Virus (while simultaneously perking up your household):

Plant for protection: Scented geraniums, rosemary, lemon eucalyptus, lemon thyme and citronella grass are all natural mosquito repellents. The crushed leaves of geraniums offer nearly half the effectiveness of pure DEET, while lemon thyme boasts the highest percentage of mosquito repellant in its crushed leaves compared to any other plant.

Burn incense and candles: Some incense, such as sandalwood, acts as a natural mosquito repellant, and smells quite good to boot. Citronella candles are also ambient, relaxing, mosquito-repelling, and widely available for purchase.

Eat a Healthy Meal: Eating dishes that include garlic, rosemary, apple cider vinegar and Vitamin B1 can make your body less attractive to mosquitos. This, combined with other methods, can minimized insect bites.

Get some fish: If you have a sentimental attachment to your birdbath or water trough, you might consider buying some mosquitofish or Rosy Red minnows, which feed on mosquito larvae and require no special care. Rosy Reds also serve as an attractive addition to any water features in your yard.