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RIDOH and RIDEM Urge Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves Against Mosquito-borne Diseases

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) want to remind people of the dangers posed by mosquitoes this time of year and reinforce the importance of personal protection in preventing mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes carry many diseases, including West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and Zika virus (Zika). The species of mosquitoes that carry WNV and EEE are found in Rhode Island and bite from this time of year until the first heavy frost (usually the end of October). Although the species of mosquito that can transmit Zika are not established in Rhode Island, individual mosquitoes have occasionally been found in traps here.

"We want Rhode Islanders to get outdoors and enjoy our beautiful state," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We also want to remind everyone about how to prevent exposure to mosquito-borne diseases by protecting themselves from mosquito bites and getting rid of mosquito breeding grounds."

Protect yourself Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes. At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes that carry WNV or EEE are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray. Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthan-diol. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children's hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors. Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages. If you are traveling to an area with Zika, be aware that the species of mosquitoes that carry Zika are active throughout the day (dawn through dusk). If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you and your partner should postpone your travel to areas with Zika, if possible. Discuss any necessary travel plans with your doctor.

Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes. Clean your gutters and down spouts so that they can drain properly. Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them. Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover. Larvicide treatments, such as Mosquito Dunks can be applied to kill immature mosquitoes. This environmentally-friendly product is available at many hardware and garden stores and on-line. Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week, and rinse out birdbaths once a week. Encourage your neighbors, friends, and family do the same things.

In order to monitor disease in Rhode Island, beginning in June each year, mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by RIDEM staff and tested at the RIDOH State Health Laboratories for WNV and EEE. RIDEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary.

Visit RIDOH's website for additional prevention tips and for Rhode Island-specific data.

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