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Standing water provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so flooded areas in middle and west Tennessee could cause significant increases in populations of these disease-carrying pests. 

The Tennessee Department of Health is reminding residents working to clean up homes, businesses and other facilities in Tennessee to take steps to help prevent illnesses associated with mosquitoes.

“Prevention is the first line of defense from mosquitoes, and we have worked hard to reduce mosquito-borne illnesses in Tennessee,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper. “As families work to clean out and restore their homes in the days and weeks ahead, it’s imperative that mosquito repellants be used and other precautions be taken to protect our health.”

Recent record-breaking rainfalls and flooding in middle and west Tennessee position the state to see a significant increase in mosquito activity. Tennesseans should take precautions to protect themselves from West Nile Virus and other diseases transmitted by mosquito bites. Mosquitoes most likely to transmit WNV bite at dawn and dusk. The best way to prevent WNV infection is to avoid mosquito bites. These simple tips can help:

• If you must go outside during dawn and dusk, use insect repellent or wear long sleeves, long pants and socks.
• If possible, eliminate standing water near your home. Many containers, even those as small as a bottle cap, can hold enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
• Keep windows and doors closed or cover them with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
• Use insect repellent containing either DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535.

There are guidelines for using the suggested insect repellants. Neither DEET nor Picaridin should be used on infants younger than two months old. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than two years of age. DEET at 30-percent concentration is the maximum level recommended for children and infants over two months old. None of these products should be applied around the mouth or eyes.

“Mosquito populations in Tennessee are at their peak May through October. Human cases of West Nile viral disease generally do not occur this early in the season, but we encourage persons to prevent mosquito bites and control the insects around homes if at all possible,” said Dr. Abelardo Moncayo, state public health entomologist with TDOH.

Mosquitoes become infected with WNV by feeding on infected birds, and can then transmit the virus through their bites. Symptoms may include fever, head and body aches, and usually last only a few days. The virus cannot be spread from one person to another. Persons with medical concerns should see a medical provider. Testing is available for West Nile Virus infection.

WNV can cause severe infections, which occur in less than one percent of human cases. These severe infections may cause meningitis or encephalitis and result in high fever, neck stiffness, stupor or disorientation. Severe cases may also cause muscle weakness or paralysis.

For more information about West Nile Virus, visit the TDOH Web site at http://health.state.tn.us/ceds/WNV/wnvhome.asp.