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How to protect yourself from West Nile virus

Tis the season for buying itch cream and bug spray. Stores are having trouble keeping these products on the shelves.

The red welts on children are never ending and spending time out by a fire at night is becoming less enjoyable with the constant swatting.

The heavy rainfall in May has increased breeding grounds for these annoying insects. With the warm weather now, the mosquitoes are out and about.

There are four parts to a mosquito's life cycle, and each one varies on how long it takes to develop depending on temperature. It could take as little as four days and up to as long as a month for a mosquito to hatch.

To protect yourself from West Nile virus, avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. When outdoors, use insect repellent. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.

Peak biting hours include dusk and dawn. You can also stop mosquitoes before applying a layer of spray. Control around your home can help prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs.

Mosquitoes need water for parts of their life cycle, so watch for any standing water. Watch your bird baths, rain barrels and pools. Proper care will discourage hatching.

Almost everyone has had the unpleasant experience of being bitten by a mosquito. Mosquito bites can cause skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva. This is what causes the red bump and itching.

A more serious bite may be carrying a disease such as malaria, dengue fever and several forms of encephalitis, including West Nile virus.

Here in Minnesota, we are familiar with mosquitoes, but you should also be aware of the West Nile virus. This virus not only affects humans but also animals such as dogs and horses.

Most people (70-80 percent) who are infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms, but one in five people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

If you experience any of these symptoms after being outside, seek professional health care.