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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, June 11 at 11 a.m., join the Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insects Program Environmental Health Supervisor Josh Smith and Environmental Health Specialist Andrew Lima 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.

Joshua Smith : Good morning. Thank you for joining Andy and me for this live discussion on tick and mosquito bite prevention. There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your family. We appreciate the questions that have been submitted and look forward to answering any additional questions.

Jim : Is there a vaccine to prevent west nile virus?

Andrew Lima : West Nile Virus is a virus that is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.  There is currently no vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in humans.  Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent contracting West Nile Virus.  This can be done by wearing long, loose light-colored clothing, wearing an approved repellent containing the active ingredient DEET, and dumping out standing water around your home.  For more information, see our website:

Mark : If I find a tick on me, does that mean I will get Lyme disease? Should I see a doctor right away? And how soon do I need to starting taking the medicine to prevent the disease? Thanks, Mark

Joshua Smith : Not all ticks transmit the Lyme disease bacteria and not all tick bites will transmit disease. 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 about your health, are exhibiting symptoms of a tick-borne illness, or have questions about treatment, please consult your physician. It's important to know the symptoms of Lyme disease so you can seek early treatment when necessary. Symptoms include, but are not limited to a bull’s-eye rash (Not every person infected with the Lyme disease bacteria gets this rash), fever, headache, achy muscles, achy joints, and fatigue.

Anonymous User : What do I do if I show symptoms of West Nile Virus?

Andrew Lima : If you exhibit any of the symptoms of West Nile virus, you should consult with your physician. 

It is important to note that approximately 80% of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not show any symptoms at all. 

Up to 20% of people infected with West Nile virus develop West Nile fever.  The symptoms may include: fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.  Symptoms may last a few days to several weeks.

About 1 in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness.  This may include: high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, paralysis, or coma.  These symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent.  West Nile virus infections can be fatal. 

For more information, see the CDC website:

Jenny : What is the proper way to remove a tick?

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.

meghan : I've heard this is going to be an especially bad year for ticks. Is there any truth to that? And what can be done in terms of prevention, especially with kids? I already check their heads when they come inside but that doesn't seem like enough

Andrew Lima :
It is difficult to predict tick populations from year-to-year, because there are a number of factors that affect their populations, including temperature, rainfall, availability of tick habitat, and potential hosts. 

Because tick populations are highly variable, we recommend taking precautions.    You can prevent tick bites by dressing appropriately—tucking pant legs into socks and tucking shirts into pants.  Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to see and remove. 

Conduct frequent tick checks on yourself, your children and pets after all outdoor activities.  Ticks can be found anywhere on the body, but tend to gravitate toward high-humidity areas on the body where they may be difficult to find.  When possible, avoid areas that may harbor ticks or their hosts, including long grass, vegetation overhanging trails, and wooded edges.

Use a repellent containing the active ingredient DEET (or other effective tick repellent).  Repellents containing DEET are approved for use on children over two months of age.  Pre-treat (or purchase) clothes treated with 0.5% permethrin, an insecticide that both kills and repels ticks.  Always follow directions on the label when using repellents and insecticides. 

Ticks can be reduced in the yard by practicing tick-safe landscaping, discouraging deer, or using chemical control, usually with insecticides that contain the active ingredient permethrin.  More information can be found on our website:

Pam : Do brand-name sprays like Off actually work to prevent ticks and mosquitoes? There seems to be just two brands that provide protection but I often if they actually work. Thanks.

Joshua Smith : The only repellents that will repel both mosquitoes and ticks are those that contain the active ingredient DEET. Read the label to make sure that the repellent you are using contains this ingredient. 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. When using a repellent, be sure to read and follow label instructions.

Find out more about repellents on our web page:

Anonymous User : if i'm walking down a sidewalk, will ticks jump on me or my children? I don't want to be a prisoner in my house, but the more I hear about ticks, the more I worry. they're also so hard to see.

Andrew Lima : Ticks do not jump, fly, or drop from trees.  The likelihood of encountering ticks while on a sidewalk is relatively low.  However, it is important to walk in the center of walkways such as paved surfaces or trails when possible to avoid brushing against overhanging vegetation, where ticks are more likely to occur.

M White : Do you recommend spraying pesticides used by companies such as mosquito squad?

Joshua Smith : If you have a problem with ticks or mosquitoes in your yard, you can treat the yard with an insecticide like permethrin ( which can be effective for a limited period of time. Insecticides should be used judiciously and according to label instructions. Many of these insecticides do have a residual effect; however, a heavy rainfall may reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Please refer to the label for more information. There are products available to homeowners but you may also choose to consult with a pest control company.

Mr. Practical : When it's 95 degrees, hot and humid, it's not really practical to tuck pants into socks and wear long-sleeves. Given that most people won't do that, what else do you recommend to avoid ticks and other bad bugs?

Andrew Lima : Although it may be uncomfortable to dress in long clothing during the summer, it is still a good idea if you are going to be in areas where mosquitoes and ticks are present. 

You can also prevent bites from ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects by applying an approved repellent containing the active ingredient DEET to clothing and exposed skin.  Always read and follow label instructions when applying a repellent.  More information about repellents can be found on our website:

mark : I've heard that mosquitoes are attracted to perfumes in soap and shampoo. Have you found that neglecting a morning shower before outdoor activities can help?

Joshua Smith :

There’s not a lot of scientific data about perfumes in soaps and shampoos and their attractiveness to mosquitoes and I’m not sure if neglecting a morning shower will help repel mosquitoes. The most effective ways to prevent mosquito bites are to wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and to wear an approved repellent on exposed skin. If you can avoid spending time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, that will also help. Find out more information here:

Anthony : I heard if you have a dog, you're more likely to get lyme disease. How do I prevent my dog from bringing into my house and kids?

Andrew Lima : Having a dog does not necessarily increase your risk for contracting Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases.  However, dogs are likely to encounter ticks if they enter areas of tick habitat such as trails, long grass or brush, and woods.  Conducting a thorough tick check of your dog, especially after it has been in high-risk tick areas, will help prevent them from being brought into the home.  There are a number of different products that can be applied to pets to repel and/or kill ticks. 

The following webpage from CDC discusses some options for tick prevention on pets:

Consult your veterinarian to see which options may be available for your dog, and ask them about the Lyme disease vaccine for canines. 

S: : Do ticks only come out in the warmer weather? What months?

Joshua Smith : Ticks are very active throughout the warmer months—usually March through October. However, the adult blacklegged (deer) tick is active on warm days during the winter. We have found these ticks active on days when the temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When in doubt, make sure to take steps to prevent tick bites ( and be sure to check yourself for ticks after outdoor activities.

Ania : Is the deet stuff safe to use on a baby?

Joshua Smith : The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents with up to 30% DEET can be used on infants and children greater than 2 months of age.
Children should not handle repellents. Apply repellent to your own hands first and then put it on the child. You may not want to apply it to the child's hands as children tend to put their hands in their mouths.
Find more information about repellents here:

Andrew Lima : On behalf of Joshua Smith and myself, thank you so much for your participation during the discussion today.  We regret that we didn’t have more time to answer all of your questions.  However, you can learn more about how to Fight the Bite! on our website, or email us at