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Division of Disease Control

Fight the Bite to Prevent West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease

Whether you are enjoying one of the city’s many parks or tending your home garden or yard, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health encourages Philadelphia residents and neighborhoods to help “Fight the Bite” while outdoors.   Avoiding mosquito and tick bites is the best way to protect you and your family from West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

Follow these simple tips to Fight the Bite:

Use repellent and clothing to protect yourself before heading outdoors

  • Wear insect repellent on exposed skin when outdoors.  Remember to apply sunscreen first and then repellent.  The insect repellent should contain one of the following ingredients:
    • DEET (20% or higher) *Preferred repellant for preventing tick bites*
    • Picaridin
    • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus / PMD 

*Follow label directions closely especially for children.

  • Spray clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent. Don't apply this type of repellent to skin or under clothing. Consider keeping a set of treated clothes for outdoor activities.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. 
  • Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, so ticks are easier to spot.

Avoid direct contact with mosquitoes and ticks

  • Be aware that peak biting hours for most mosquitoes are from dusk to dawn. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing -- or consider staying indoors during these times.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of park trails.

Find and remove ticks after being outdoors

  • Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours).
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.  Check for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in hair.
  • Remove attached ticks as soon as possible.
  • Examine clothes and gear and tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill ticks.
  • Check your pets, since they can bring ticks into your home.   Also, discuss use of a tick preventative product for your dog with their vet.

Mosquito- and tick-proof your home and neighborhood

  • Drain or remove sources of standing water outside your home where you work and play.  This helps reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed. 
    • At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, cans, and any other items outside your home.
    • Remove unused tires, and other items that could collect water.
    • Empty and store kiddie pools on their side.  
    • Keep your swimming pool properly filtered and chemically treated, so it stays clean.
    • Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
    • Secure screens tightly on garden rain barrels.
    • Aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
    • Check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
  • Keep and repair screens on windows and doors.  They should be well-fitted to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Regularly mow grass, remove leaf litter, and clear tall grasses and brush around homes.
  • Keep play areas away from shrubs, bushes, and other areas that may have ticks.
  • Place a 3-feet wide tick barrier of wood chips or gravel between wooded areas and lawns.  Tick barriers can also be placed around patios and play areas.
  • Help the elderly and others in your neighborhood protect their homes from mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Vector Control Program’s Mosquito Complaint hotline at 215-685-9027 to report mosquito problems in your neighborhood and dead bird sightings.

 

Quick Facts about West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease in Philly

  • Some mosquitoes found in Philly can be infected and spread West Nile Virus, while deer ticks in our area can spread Lyme Disease.

  • Peak season for these bugs is April through October. 

  • Both illnesses can result in long-term health problems.  Severe West Nile Virus illness can be fatal.

  • Anyone who works or spends a lot of time outdoors is more likely to get bites that cause these illnesses.

  • Adults 50 years of age and older and those with weak immune systems are at greatest risk for severe illness from West Nile Virus.

* Anyone with symptoms of severe West Nile Virus--fever, headache, neck stiffness, and/or confusion--should seek medical care right away.  Visit your doctor if you experience fever or rash.  Early treatment with antibiotics can prevent ongoing health problems from Lyme Disease.   

For more information on West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease, visit:
CDC West Nile Prevention Information
State of PA West Nile Control Program
CDC Lyme Disease Prevention Information