Real risk from mosquito bites—even in cool weather

While people enjoy fall pleasures, a pest from summer still prowls.

Look for mosquitoes to keep biting into fall, so people should still shield themselves from bites.

"Even through Zika has the headlines, the biggest mosquito threat in Illinois is West Nile Virus," said Julie Pryde, administrator at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. "Even though folks may be wearing jackets and long pants, they still need to wear insect repellent."

Public health offers several practical tips to help guard against mosquitoes.

Franklyn Christensen, MD, (pictured) Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist at Carle and a member of the state's Zika Task Force, also reminds folks to guard against Zika as they travel this fall and winter.

"Even though mosquitoes die off in the winter here, the bugs live year-round in Latin America and Florida," Dr. Christensen said. "The Zika threat is still very real in those areas and we want people to stay safe."  

How long will the pest harass people in Illinois?

"Mosquito activity starts to drop off in the fall," said Brian Allan, PhD, entomologist at the University of Illinois. "Around here it's often late September when activity declines considerably; however, mosquitoes can live in homes and can be active all winter."

So far, Allan says the mosquito species in Illinois has not spread the Zika virus by biting an infected person and spreading Zika to another person.

"The risk of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika in Illinois is likely very low,” Allan said. “But remember the mosquito species that live here transmit West Nile virus, so people need to protect themselves.”

With fall football, bonfires, and hay rack rides, or even fall or winter get-aways, remember to prevent mosquito bites.