West Nile Virus: Basic safety

The following article originally appeared in the May/June 2003 issue of Tracks, the bimonthly newsletter of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

As spring turns to summer, Northeast Ohioans once again will have to deal with the West Nile Virus. Although the problem might seem to be beyond our control, there are ways that you can help prevent the virus' spread, limit its impact on wildlife in the area and reduce the need for pesticide spraying. And you can start in your own backyard. Here's are some tips to get you started:

  • Make sure that the doors and windows at home have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace torn screens.
  • Remove all discarded tires from your property (they can become breeding grounds for mosquitos).
  • Dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots and similar water-holding containers.
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. If not in use, keep them empty and covered.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week.
  • Consider using commercially available, environmentally safe bacterial 'pucks' (a formulation of the bacterium Bacillus sphaericus that is a natural pesticide specific to mosquitos) in any standing water you must have, such as a backyard pool.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, etc. when not in use.
  • Clean ditches of obstructions so that they drain properly.
  • Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
  • Check trees for cavities that hold water and fill them with soil, gravel or sand.
  • Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.

Birds are the natural reservoir for the virus. More than 130 species have been affected by the disease, from American Crows and Blue Jays to owls and other large raptors. The virus is spread by the Northern House Mosquito (Culex pipiens), which peaks in activity during the late summer. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, the virus is transmitted to the mosquito, which then becomes a host itself. If that same mosquito then bites a human or other animal, it can pass on the disease.

While the threat posed by the virus is serious, if in the course of the summer you or your family members are bitten by a mosquito, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that you do not panic. Even in areas where the virus is circulating, very few mosquitos are infected with it. According to the CDC, if a mosquito is infected, less than 1 percent of the people it bites will become infected and get severely ill.

However, it's best to protect yourself and your family:

  • Wear light-colored clothinglong sleeved shirts and long pants are preferable.
  • Consider staying indoors during the peak mosquito biting times: dawn, dusk and in the early evening.
  • Consider using a mosquito repellent.
  • Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when outdoors.


Back to top

EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2004

South Euclid and Lyndhurst ban spraying
Shaker Hts. adopts a smart WNV plan
Summary of the Shaker WNV plan

What is being sprayed?
West Nile Virus' impact on birds
Sierra Club fact sheet on WNV

Back to main Health & Home

go to home page

Related Links:









Partner Links