(BPT) - From annoying itchy welts to serious conditions like Malaria and West Nile virus, mosquitoes have been making humans miserable and sick for thousands of years. And now, there's Zika - a mosquito-spread virus that may be linked to serious birth defects. In fact, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the diseases mosquitoes spread make them the deadliest animal on the planet.
The arrival of warm weather means it's time to step up your mosquito prevention and protection efforts in order to help protect your family. The National Pest Management Association offers some information that can help:
* The type of mosquito that transmits Zika bites during the daytime hours. Most other types of mosquitoes bite during dusk and dawn.
* Within the U.S., mosquitoes have been known to spread West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and encephalitis-causing viruses in humans, and heartworms in dogs.
* Mosquitoes spread disease when they bite one person, fly to another and bite again, spreading the infection. What many people don't realize is that the saliva from the mosquito's bite causes the red, itchy irritation that we all know so well.
The NPMA recommends some ways you can help reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:
* Eliminate breeding areas - Mosquitoes need only about a half-inch of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Get rid of any stagnant water around your home, such as flower pots, bird baths, kiddie pools and standing water in low areas of your yard.
* Use repellent - Whenever you spend time outside, protect your skin from mosquito bites by applying an insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Also, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
* Be aware of the time of day - Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, although the variety that transmits Zika prefers to bite during the day. Minimize outside activity during peak biting hours, or, if you must be outside, wear long sleeves, pants and repellent to thwart mosquitoes.
* Watch what you wear - Dark colors, floral prints and sweet-smelling perfumes or colognes can attract mosquitoes to you. Wear light colors and forego perfume when spending time outside.
* Protect your house - Screens help keep mosquitoes out of your house. Be sure all windows and doors are outfitted with screens, and that all are in good shape. Repair tears to keep mosquitoes from getting inside.
* Travel wisely - Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries, so if your summer vacation will take you outside the country, check what travel advisories may be in effect in your destination. If someone gets sick upon returning home, seek medical care immediately.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at control, mosquitoes on your property can still be a problem. A licensed pest control professional can help you manage mosquitoes. To find a professional near you, visit the NPMA's website at pestworld.org.
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