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When you're dealing with West Nile virus, prevention is your best bet. Take the commonsense steps below to reduce your risk of getting this disease or others that mosquitoes can carry:


* avoid bites


* clean out the mosquitoes from the places where you work and play


* help your community control the disease.



Let's take a look at how to do that.


Avoid mosquito bites


* Apply insect repellent containing DEET. Look for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) and apply to exposed skin when you go outdoors, even for a short time.


* Wear clothing that can help reduce mosquito bites. When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks with shoes when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spray clothes with repellent containing DEET for extra protection.


* Avoid peak mosquito hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquito species. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing during evening and early morning-or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.


Mosquito-proof your home


* Drain standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so get rid of items that hold water around your home or apartment. Examples include empty flowerpots, your pet's bowls, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.


* Install or repair screens. Keep mosquitoes outside with well-fitting screens on both windows and doors.


Help your community control the disease


* Report dead birds to local authorities. Dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area. Over 130 species of birds have been infected with West Nile virus, though not all infected birds will die.


* Participate in mosquito control programs. Check with local health authorities to find a mosquito control program in your area. If no program exists, work with your local government officials to establish one.


* Find out more about local prevention efforts. Click for state and local West Nile virus information and contacts online at