Mosquito and Tick-borne Illnesses

West Nile Virus (WNV) has been a problem in the U.S. for more than ten years. The virus spreads to humans who are bitten by mosquitos that have fed on infected birds. Several types of ticks are common in gardens and bushes. They carry infections from animals to humans when they feed while attached. Prevent these diseases by preventing mosquito and tick bites. Use insect repellent as recommended below and follow instructions on the product label.

Insect repellents and proper clothing to prevent mosquito bites helps avoid tick bites and sunburn too. If you see a tick on a child, grasp it firmly with a blunt end tweezers. Pull it slowly and steadily out of the skin without squashing or breaking its body. Ticks infect people with their feces after they have fed on the host.

Reduce mosquito breeding areas around facilities. ECELS has adapted the three D s of mosquito prevention for early educators from the recommendations of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). The AMCA recommends Drain, Dress, and Defend. Enjoy the outdoors this summer and fall. Stop the spread of insect-borne illness by following these tips:

  • Drain: Empty anything that traps water at least once per week. Clean debris and brush where children play. Empty rain gutters so they drain fully and dry when rain stops. Fill in places where rain water puddles and collects in open ditches. Empty and turn over containers that can collect water. Check for trapped water in canvas or plastic tarps. Be sure water play items kept outdoors do not collect standing water. Maintain outdoor pools according to local or state regulations available from the PA Department of Health.
  • Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when outside. (ECELS adds, use light weight, tightly woven, sun protective clothing. Tuck pant-legs into socks if walking where contact with vegetation can occur.)
  • Defend: Apply a non-aerosol repellent approved for the age of the children. Choose one that contains 10-30% DEET, Picaridin or IR3535. Apply it on exposed skin or on the outside edges of clothing near exposed skin. The strength of the DEET determines how long it is effective. Protection lasts about two hours with 10%, for five hours with 24%. Do not apply repellent to children’s hands, near eyes or mouth. Apply sunscreen separately before applying repellent. Wash off repellent after coming inside. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours.

For more details, see the national health and safety performance standards for early care and education programs, Caring for Our Children at, Standard Insect Repellent and Protection from Vector-Borne Diseases. Also, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Prevent Mosquito Bites" for more information. 

Adapted by S. Aronson, MD (ECELS Pediatric Advisor) from an alert sent by the Pennsylvania, Montgomery County Health Department 6/2013. Reviewed and reaffirmed 7/2021