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Mental & physical health

Protect yourself from West Nile virus and Lyme disease

Some mosquitoes found in Philadelphia can spread West Nile virus. Deer ticks can spread Lyme disease. Peak season for these bugs is April through October. Both illnesses can result in long-term health problems. A severe case of West Nile virus can be fatal.

If you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, you’re more likely to get bites that cause these illnesses. People age 50 and up and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for severe illness from West Nile virus.

Preventing mosquito and tick bites is the best way to protect you and your family from West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and other infections transmitted by these bugs.

Preventing insect bites

You can avoid tick and mosquito bites by using an insect repellent when you’re outdoors. Choose a repellent that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Follow the directions on the package.

You can also spray clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent. Don’t apply this type of repellent to your skin or under clothing. Consider keeping a set of treated clothes for outdoor activities.

Preventing mosquito bites

  • Avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. If you are outdoors during this time, wear long sleeves and pants and use insect repellent.
  • Use screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from breeding by emptying containers with standing water, such as flowerpots, buckets, and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in birdbaths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

Learn more about preventing mosquito bites.

Preventing tick bites

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of park trails.
  • Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors, preferably within two hours.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
  • Remove attached ticks as soon as possible.
  • Examine clothes and gear. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.
  • Check your pets, since they can bring ticks into your home. Talk with your vet about using a product to prevent ticks on your dog.

Learn more about preventing tick bites.

Don't delay medical care if you develop symptoms

Seek medical care right away if you develop symptoms of severe West Nile virus, including:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Neck stiffness.
  • Confusion.

Visit your medical provider if you experience a fever or rash. For Lyme disease, early treatment with antibiotics can prevent ongoing health problems.

To locate a medical provider, use the primary care finder.