Mosquito Control and West Nile Virus

The best strategy to control mosquitoes and thus eliminate the threat of West Nile virus is to control mosquito habitat and the immature stages of the mosquito.

| September 6, 2012


West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes, which can infect birds, horses and humans with the disease.

Photo by Fotolia/Henrik Larsson

This article was posted with permission from Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticide.

West Nile virus, a mosquito transmitted disease, was first documented in North America in the summer of 1999 when cases of human illness occurred in New York City. Since that time, West Nile virus has progressively moved across the country.1 By 2007, the virus was reported from all states except Alaska, and Hawaii.2 

The Joint Statement on Mosquito Control from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that:

"The underlying philosophy of mosquito control is based on the fact that the greatest control impact on mosquito populations will occur when they are concentrated, immobile and accessible. This emphasis focuses on habitat management and controlling the immature stages before the mosquitoes emerge as adults. This policy reduces the need for widespread pesticide application in urban areas."3 

NCAP encourages communities to make every effort to avoid resorting to mosquito sprays because of the hazards that pesticides pose — hazards for our health and the health of the environment. Communities should strive to control mosquito populations by reducing breeding habitats and take common-sense steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Focusing on these strategies will help prevent the use of pesticides that may add to the problems caused by this disease.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus was first identified in the West Nile region of Uganda in 1937.1 Until 1999 when the first documented cases occurred in New York City, the virus was found only in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe.1 In areas where the virus is endemic, it is a childhood disease with an immune adult population.4 

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