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Steps to reduce West Nile risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide these tips to reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus.

  Spray: To avoid mosquito bites, spray an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin or clothing when you're outdoors. Products with a higher percentage of DEET give longer protection. Follow label directions.

  Cover up: Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks sprayed with repellent when spending time outdoors.

  Avoid mosquitoes: Many mosquitoes bite between dusk and dawn, so it's best to limit your time outdoors during these hours. If you must be outside, use repellents and wear protective clothing.

  Fix screens: Keep mosquitoes outside by fixing or installing window and door screens in your home.

  Eliminate possible breeding spots: Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots and other items. Cover up or get rid of old tires and other items that aren't being used. Clean pet water bowls frequently. Check if rain gutters are clogged. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.

  Help your community: Report dead birds to your local or state health department. Dead birds help health departments track West Nile virus.

DEET-free alternatives

Some people prefer not to use insect repellents with DEET because they fear it's too toxic or it may irritate skin. Alternatives include products recently approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

According to the CDC, picaridin has been used in mosquito repellents in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Asia for many years. It works just as well as DEET products of similar concentration. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is plant-based, has protection times comparable to products with low concentrations of DEET.

Products with soybean oil, though not approved by the EPA as a mosquito repellent, are another natural alternative said by their makers to be as effective as DEET.

Here are some non-DEET products that may work for you:

  Cutter Advanced - contains 7percent picaridin and provides two to three hours of protection

  Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Lotion - contains 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus and protects for six hours.

  OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent - contains oil of lemon eucalyptus and provides protection for up to two hours.

  Bite Blocker Herbal Spray - contains soybean oil and provides up to 8 hours of protection.