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    Infectious Disease Prevention Section
    Mail Code: 1927
    PO BOX 149347 - Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 West 49th Street, Suite G401
    Austin, TX 78714

    Phone: (512) 776-7676
    Fax: (512) 776-7616


Myths and Rumors

West Nile Virus West Nile Virus
(West Nile Virus, WNV, WestNile)
ICD-9 066.4; ICD-10 G93.3

West Nile Virus Questions

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WNV Myths and Rumors

1. I heard that putting up purple martin houses and bat houses will help prevent West Nile virus because those animals eat mosquitoes. Is this true?
While it is true that certain types of birds and bats eat mosquitoes, putting up bird and bat houses on your property will not necessarily help prevent the transmission of West Nile virus. Several agencies have tried to control mosquitoes by using birds, bats, dragonflies and frogs. However, according to the American Mosquito Control Association, there is no proof that bats, purple martins, or other animals that eat insects are able to eat enough adult mosquitoes to make a difference. One reason for this is because purple martins fly and eat during the day and most mosquitoes are active at night. In addition, most bats eat June bugs and moths, but do not eat mosquitoes. Also, bats can transmit the rabies virus and encouraging them to live in your yard could pose a health risk to your family and neighbors.

2. My community won't spray for mosquitoes. Therefore, my town has no mosquito control and the citizens are at risk for West Nile virus.
Mosquito control is best performed using the Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) concept. IMM develops pest management systems that are practical and effective to protect human health and the environment. Mosquito control can be divided into two areas of responsibility - individual and public. Public spraying to control mosquitoes is only one of many pest control methods used for effective long-term mosquito control. The reduction, elimination, or treatment of mosquito breeding areas is the best and most cost-effective technique for mosquito control. The most important things you and the citizens of your community can do to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus are to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas in your environment and limit your exposure to feeding mosquitoes. Many female mosquitoes can lay 100-300 eggs on the surface of fresh or stagnant water every third night during its life span. Here are some simple things you can do to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites in your environment:

  • Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns, or in pet dishes for more than 2 days.
  • Get rid of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water.
  • Clean debris from rain gutters, remove standing water from flat roofs, and repair leaks around faucets and air conditioners.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.
  • Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas.
  • Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools, and arrange the tarp to drain the water.
  • If ditches do not flow and contain stagnant water for a week or longer, report this problem to a mosquito control district or public health office.

3. My neighbor's bug zappers keep me awake all night. He says he got several zappers to protect his family from West Nile virus because they kill mosquitoes. I say they don't work. Who is right?
You are right. Studies show that they actually attract mosquitoes into your yard. In addition, most insects killed by bug zappers include moths, beetles and other harmless bugs - not mosquitoes. Mosquito control products are big business. Americans have invested billions of dollars in zappers, repellers, and other products that claim they will keep pesky mosquitoes from biting. In almost every case, the merits of the product are rarely backed with scientific testing. All products should be thoroughly researched before you purchase them. Your best bet would be to use a proven method for keeping your home and property mosquito-free.

4. I found a dead bird in my yard today and the Department of State Health Services refused to test it. I know my family has been exposed to West Nile virus from this bird. How can we be tested for this deadly disease?
West Nile virus transmission to people only occurs from the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms at all. About 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus may develop mild flu-like symptoms. Less than 1 percent of those bitten by infected mosquitoes become severely ill. To be tested for West Nile virus, you should contact your health-care provider. If necessary, a blood sample will be taken and sent to a laboratory for testing.

5. If the Department of State Health Services is so concerned about mosquitoes and West Nile virus, why won't they drain the stagnant pond that has formed just behind my property line? Can't they just send an employee out to spray for mosquitoes?
In Texas, people who live in the country - on large farms or small home sites - are responsible for the control of mosquitoes on their property. For advice or assistance with mosquito control on or around your property, check with your local division of health officials to see if your community has a mosquito control district or locally managed mosquito control program.

6. My neighbor says you can get West Nile virus from handling dead birds. Is this true?
No. West Nile virus is spread to humans mainly through the bite from an infected mosquito. There is no proof that West Nile virus can be spread from person to person or from animal to person.

7. I'm worried that my dog might get West Nile virus. Can this happen?
West Nile virus can infect just about any animal, including dogs - however, the good news is they rarely, if ever, become sick from the virus.

Last updated September 19, 2013