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The California Department of Public Health has recently announced four recent fatalities from West Nile Virus, one each in Sacramento and Shasta counties and two in Stanislaus County. These deaths serve as a reminder that San Benito County residents should take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites whenever they are outside.

The San Benito County Agricultural Commmissioners Office Mosquito Abatement program would like to remind the public to minimize your chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes by limiting the time you spend outdoors at dawn and dusk, which is when mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus usually bite. If you are unable to avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk, you should wear light colored loose fitting long sleeved shirts and pants and wear an EPA-registered mosquito repellant.

With so many products on the market that claim to repel mosquitoes, how will you know what actually might work? You should choose a repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Such products have been reviewed for effectiveness and pose a minimal risk for human safety when used according to label directions. In general, the repellents that have been approved are Deet (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), Picaridin (KBR 3023), Oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-methane 3,8-diol or PMD) and IR3535 (also called Merck 3535). Of these, Deet is considered the most effective and best studied repellent currently available. The EPA has developed a search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products that will give you the protection you need. You can find it at the following website:

The EPA has published the following guidelines for using repellents safely:

  • Follow the label directions to ensure proper use.
  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use under clothing.
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
  • When using sprays, do not spray directly into face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Do not allow children to handle repellents, and do not apply to children’s hands.
  • Re-apply the repellent according to the label instructions.
  • Avoid breathing a spray product.
  • Do not use it near food.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.
  • Do not use any product on pets or other animals unless the label clearly states it is for animals.
  • Most insect repellents do not work against lice or fleas.
  • Store insect repellents safely out of the reach of children.

Taking simple precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes can make your summers safer and more enjoyable.