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Fight the Bite: Guard Against Mosquito and Tick Bites This Summer Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Fight the Bite: Guard Against Mosquito and Tick Bites This Summer

On Wednesday, May 8, 2 p.m., join Dr. Jorge Arias and Josh Smith, environmental health specialist and biologist, from the Health Department for an online discussion about how to protect yourself and your family from West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Preventing bites from these insects is an important step. Learn how to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home, what to do if you find a tick on your body and how to spot the signs and symptoms of West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Join the conversation, get your questions answered and learn how to enjoy the outdoors safely this summer.

Jorge Arias : Good afternoon.  Thank you for joining Josh and me for this live discussion on Lyme disease and West Nile virus prevention.  There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself and your family.  We appreciate all of your questions.

Anonymous User : How can you tell a regular mosquito bite from one that is from a tick and may put you at risk for Lyme's Disease?

Jorge Arias : Most insect bites look the same. The irritation is mainly due to an allergic reaction, not the type of insect itself. The tell-tale sign of a tick bite is that the tick is still attached.

Josh : Will we have the same mosquito problem that we had last summer again this year?

Joshua Smith : The main mosquito problem we have in Fairfax County is the Asian tiger mosquito. It breeds in artificial containers around houses, bites primarily during the day, and prefers humans. Unfortunately it is here to stay and will probably be a problem every year. The best thing to do is to try and prevent mosquitoes from breeding around your home by eliminating standing water. Find out more about mosquitoes and how you can prevent them around your home here:

Aimee : I heard that the symptoms of Lyme disease can be confused with other diseases so is there a way to tell when you have Lyme?

Jorge Arias : Unfortunately Lyme disease symptoms can be confused with other diseases. One tell-tale symptom of Lyme disease is the bull’s eye rash. If you have a bull's eye rash and you live in Fairfax County (where Lyme disease is endemic) you may have Lyme disease. If you have signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (see or you should consult with your doctor.

Anna : Do all tick bites in Fairfax County give you a disease?

Jorge Arias : No, only those ticks that are infected with a pathogen can transmit the pathogen that causes diseases. All of the man-biting tick species in the County can potentially transmit pathogens.  Learn more about common ticks in Fairfax County on our website:

John : Should I spray my yard for ticks and mosquitoes?

Joshua Smith : If you have a problem with ticks or mosquitoes in your yard, you can treat the yard with an insecticide like permethrin ( to address the problem. Insecticides should be used judiciously and according to label instructions. There are products available to homeowners but you may also choose to consult with a pest control company.

Jennifer : Do Health Dept. clinics test people for Lyme disease?

Jorge Arias : The Fairfax County Health Department does not test people for Lyme disease.  You should see a doctor if you have signs or symptoms of Lyme disease.  (Learn more on our website:  The Health Department does conduct tick surveillance to determine the infection rate of various pathogens in the tick populations.

Charity : I have seen something floating around the web about homemade mosquito traps made from soda bottles. WIll this actually work?

Joshua Smith : This trap may collect mosquitoes, but it will not control all mosquitoes or eliminate their larval habitat. The best thing to do is to try and eliminate the mosquito breeding sites (some examples here to stop them before they start flying.

Stacy : I heard that Lyme disease can mimic other diseases, like MS. Is there a blood test doctors can administer to determine if you in fact have Lyme disease? If not, is that something currently under development?

Jorge Arias : There are blood tests available to aid doctors with the diagnosis of Lyme disease.  However, it is important to note that these tests are not recommended for patients who do not have signs and symptoms that suggest Lyme disease.  In people who don't have such symptoms, interpresting the test results are difficult as these tests may produce false positive results (meaning the test is positive even if the individual does not have the disease).  A false positive result can lead to misdiagonosis with Lyme disease when the patient actually has something else.  This can delay treatment for other diseases.  It's best to consult your physician if you have signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, which include a bull’s-eye rash (not every person infected with the Lyme disease bacteria gets this rash); fever; headache; achy muscles and joints; and fatigue.

Doug S : Someone told me once that the only way to remove a tick is by burning it off with a match. Is this true?

Joshua Smith : The best way to remove ticks is to use a fine-tipped pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close as you can to the skin and with a steady motion, slowly pull the tick away from the skin.
Fairfax County residents can bring the tick to the Health Department to have the tick identified ( The tick identification service does not test ticks for pathogens for clinical purposes.
Do not use petroleum jelly, a match, nail polish or other products to remove ticks.

Anonymous User : Can you publicly post reported cases of tick bites this year so we know what neighborhoods might be affected the most?

Jorge Arias : Lyme disease is endemic through Fairfax County.  Therefore, a person can be exposed to ticks anywhere in the community and in most cases you may not know where you picked up a tick.  It's a good idea to expect that you may be exposed to ticks during any outdoor activity, which is why you should always take precautions like wearing repellent that contains DEET; dressing properly to keep ticks on the outside of your clothes; avoid areas where tickes may be present such as high grass and wooded areas; and do frequent tick checks each time you come in from the outdoors.  Learn more about prevention on our website   The county does collect data on the number of reported Lyme disease cases, which are published each year by the state (see; however, many more cases of Lyme may go undiagnosed or unreported.

Abby M. : I have a stream behind my house and we have A LOT of mosquitoes every summer so is there any way to treat the water to prevent mosquitoes?

Joshua Smith : Mosquitoes generally need still or stagnant water for larval habitat. The primary nuisance mosquito in Fairfax County is the Asian Tiger mosquito--a small, aggressive, black-and-white mosquito that prefers to bite during the day. This mosquito breeds in artificial containers and is found near residences. Before mosquitoes start biting, be sure to check your yard for standing water on a weekly basis. Eliminate any standing water by emptying these containers. Mosquito-specific larvicides containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) can be used in standing water that cannot be eliminated. Find out more here:

Anonymous User : If I just want to go for a walk in my neighborhood just sticking to sidewalks should I be paranoid about getting a tick bite? Where do ticks hang out?

Jorge Arias : The probability of picking up a tick on a sidewalk is low; however, walking in the center of sidewalks or paths is always a good idea to avoid any high grass at the edges.  Ticks do not jump on people.  People pick up ticks when they brush up against vegetation.  Ticks are usually found on vegetation and leaf litter.

Anonymous User : What precautions should one take against ticks if one has a dog?

Jorge Arias : There are "spot on" topical treatments that can be used on dogs.  There is also a Lyme disease vaccine available for dogs.  You should consult a veterinarian for more information.  Sometimes dogs can bring ticks into the home; therefore, you should do tick checks on your dog and yourself whenever coming in from the outdoors and if you find a tick, promptly remove it.

Jenny : Will the county consider spraying public land this year to curb the mosquito population?

Jorge Arias : The Fairfax County Health Department will spray public lands on which a high number of man-biting mosquitoes that are infected with West Nile virus are found through our ongoing surveillance program.

Steve : I recall there was a lot of news around West Nile Virus cases in Texas last summer. Do you anticipate that our region will see more cases this year?

Jorge Arias : Predicting the number of human cases of West Nile virus is not possible.  The level of West Nile activity in Fairfax County is difficult to predict each year because there are many variables that affect it such as rainfall and temperature.  Because West Nile virus is present in our community, the Health Department recommends at you always take precautions.  Learn more on our website:  

Karin : What can homeowners do to kill Lyme Disease ticks in their yard? What type of pesticide do you recommend and how often should it be used?

Joshua Smith : There are a few things you can do to try and minimize the number of ticks in your yard ( Practice tick-safe landscaping by doing things like keeping the grass cut short and cleaning up leaf litter. You can also try to discourage deer from entering your yard by planting things that may not be attractive to deer. Talk to your local garden center for more information. You can also install deer-proof fencing. Store firewood away from the house to keep mice and other rodents away from your house. If you choose to treat your yard with a pesticide, you can use permethrin-based insecticides ( Reapply according to what the label says. Be sure to always read and follow label instructions when using an insecticide.

Adrian : What does the county do to prevent lyme disease?

Jorge Arias : There is little the County can do to prevent Lyme disease. What the County is trying to do is to arm the residents of the County with information that they can use to prevent, detect and treat Lyme disease. The Health Department conducts tick surveillance and the County has a pilot project, commonly referred to as the 4-poster deer feeding bait station, that may help to control tick populations on deer.  It’s very important for people to take steps to protect themselves and their families.  I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about what you can do.

Anonymous User : How about neighborhoods in Fairfax? Will the county spray those for mosquitos?

Jorge Arias : The Fairfax County Health Department does not spray for nuisance mosquitoes.  The Health Department will consider spraying when an eminent public health threat has been detected.

LN in Falls Church : The mosquitos make it UNBEARABLE to spend any time outside of our home each summer. Our next door neighbor has a front and rear yard littered with what I consider trash but suppose are his treasured old containers, appliances, and plastic boxes, as well as a shed which collapsed 5 years ago which I'm sure collect water and contribute to the mosquito population. What recourse do I have to eliminate this nuisance? And is there anything else the County can be doing to spray in our neighborhood so my 2 young children aren't effectively locked inside all summer long? (I can provide my conact info if you'd provide an email address I can send it to).

Jorge Arias : You may submit a complaint online by visiting this webpage:

Anonymous User : I know that ticks can give you other diseases too so why is there always talk about Lyme disease?

Jorge Arias : Lyme disease is the most frequent vector borne disease in the Country and the County. Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose, and if it goes untreated can be devastating. However, all tick borne diseases are a threat and should be recognized as well. Learn more from our brocure:  Consult your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of Lyme disease or other tick borne disease. 

Anonymous User : My husband got a tick this past weekend, deeply embedded under his arm. I removed it with a lot of difficulty - it was already dead, and we kept it in a plastic bag if needed for testing. My question is when should you consult your Doc. Should you wait until you have symptoms, or should you go see a Doc right away once you are bitten and have had a tick embedded in your skin?

Joshua Smith : Fairfax County residents can bring their ticks to the Health Department to have them identified ( The tick ID service does not test ticks for pathogens for clinical purposes.
If you have concerns or are exhibiting symptoms of a tick-borne illness, please consult your physician.

Anonymous User : We own a garden fountain. It's mostly in the sun. We need to put a capful of bleach in every other week to prevent moss and slim from developing. Does this growth increase the chance of west Nile virus? The fountain is in constant motion not just stagnant water.

Jorge Arias : As long as mosquitoes don’t breed in the fountain, you will not have mosquito problems. Mosquito larvae look like little wigglers. Most running fountains don’t allow for mosquitoes to breed in them because mosquitoes breed in standing water.  You can use mosquito-specific larvicides to treat fountains or other standing water that cannot be eliminated.  You can learn more about larvicides on our website:

Laura : If take my 8 month old for a walk in a stroller and she never gets out of the stroller can she still be exposed to a potential tick bite?

Jorge Arias : It all depends where you take her. If you go into wooded or grassy areas she may be susceptible to a tick climbing up the stroller. It is always a good idea to do a thorough tick check on your daughter (and yourself) after being outdoors.  Repellents containing DEET can also be used to repel ticks and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, repellents with up to 30% DEET can be used on infants and children greater than 2 months of age.  Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns. 

Anonymous User : My dog always gets ticks on her when we go for walks. Can you recommend how I can control this? I have a standard collar from the pet store, but it doesn't seem to work.

Joshua Smith : There are different types of tick-prevention methods available for dogs and there is also a Lyme disease vaccine available. Consult a veterinarian for more information.

Jorge Arias : On behalf of Josh Smith and myself, thank you to everyone for sending in your questions.  We have run out of time.  However, you can learn more about how to "fight the bite" by visiting our website,