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July 20, 2013

OUR VIEW: Swap your mosquito problem this summer

The sound of hands slapping skin just might be the unofficial theme song for summer 2013. It can be heard at every gathering, at every game and in every garden.

The mosquitoes are bad. That's likely not escaped your attention.

Though last summer was too hot and too dry, we were spoiled by the lack of the flying annoyances. So spoiled, in fact, some of us have gotten lazy on taking precautions to squelch their numbers this summer. Or we might just be out of practice.

Doing your part to keep their numbers at bay has to do with safety as much as it does with annoyance. The more mosquitoes, the greater the threat of West Nile. Bet you don't miss those words after not hearing them so much last summer.

But it's a real threat and something people should take seriously. With the disease already making its rounds, especially in Texas, experts at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital are spreading the word about preventative measures. Here's their advice.

• Mosquito repellent is the best line of defense — look for one containing DEET or picardin.

• Avoid being outdoors between dusk and dawn — this is when the mosquitoes carrying the virus are most active.

• During the day, avoid stirring these mosquitoes up in areas that have tall grass. Protect yourself from mosquitoes if you plan to garden or do work outdoors.

• Be sure vulnerable populations, such as older adults and children, are using mosquito repellent.

• Don't become complacent as the summer goes on — the majority of infections occur between July and September.

• If possible, wear long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.

About 20 percent of those infected with West Nile virus will develop a flu-like illness that can last several weeks and cause fatigue. A smaller percentage may develop a neuroinvasive form of the disease, which means the virus has invaded the brain and spinal cord, causing encephalitis, meningitis and/or paralysis. Those with underlying conditions may have additional complications.

That sounds like something we should all be taking seriously.

THE ISSUE Mosquitoes a problem this summer OUR VIEW Preventing their spread and the diseases they carry should be a priority.

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