News Release

July 17, 2007

Contact: Christopher DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Bad Time of Year for Bug Bites

UConn Expert Tells How to Reduce West Nile Risk

FARMINGTON, CONN. – It’s only been about a decade since scientists first identified West Nile virus in Connecticut, but the mosquito-borne illness has become a regular part of summer. Although it turns up more often in birds than humans, West Nile is a health matter that shouldn’t be ignored, especially by the elderly, the very young and those with impaired immune systems.

“Although many individuals infected with West Nile virus experience mild or no symptoms, serious and even fatal disease can occur,” says Stephen Wikel, Ph.D., professor of immunology at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “While outdoors, cover exposed skin with clothing or insect repellent with either DEET or picaridin as its active ingredient. An insecticide called permethrin is an effective repellent for treating clothing and camping equipment to protect against mosquitoes and ticks.”

Mosquitoes also can carry eastern equine encephalitis. To reduce exposure risk, Wikel recommends:

  • Eliminating standing water, such as in bird baths, to reduce places where mosquitoes breed.
  • Staying indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes frequently are most active.
  • Repairing or replacing window screens and screen doors.
  • Ticks are a threat too.

“Lyme disease, babesiosis, and human granulocytic anaplasmosis are tick-borne disease risks in much of New England,” Wikel says. “Repellents with DEET and clothing treated with permethrin provide protection against ticks. If possible, wear long pants with the cuffs tucked into socks. Wear light colored clothing to make spotting ticks easier and be sure to check for ticks on your skin after outdoor activity.”

Wikel is one of the world’s leading researchers of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.

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