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We're sorry to bug you about this, but we need to take precautions against providing mosquitoes with places to breed before the West Nile Virus season begins.

The government has an important role - particularly when it comes to monitoring the presence of the virus. But individuals also have a responsibility to protect themselves and others.

Insecticide "fogging" for mosquitoes is largely a waste of money in most cases as it reaches only a small percentage of the bugs that are around and is not selective about the types of insects it kills. Using larvicide - killing mosquito larva before they turn into adults - is more effective because it can be better targeted and the pesticide used is generally less potent than those used to kill adult mosquitoes.

But the best approach is limiting places where mosquitoes can breed. That generally costs less while also limiting the amount of chemicals introduced into the environment.

Bloomington got things off to a good start with its tire amnesty day in April.

Residents dropped off 747 tires during the special collection.

Don't despair if you live in Normal. Although Bloomington excludes tires from its bulky waste collection, Normal allows its residents to leave tires at the curb.

There is an extra incentive to get rid of the tires: Normal's ordinances prohibit outdoor storage of tires for more than seven days.

Tires stored outside tend to collect rainwater and become a prime breeding habitat for mosquitoes. Even that old tire swing can be an incubator. If you have one, poke drainage holes in the bottom to prevent the problem.

While the Bloomington code talks in general terms against "mosquito harborage," Normal's anti-mosquito ordinance gives specific examples, including buckets, swimming pools, clogged gutters or any other stagnant water, in addition to tires.

The first human case of illness caused by West Nile Virus hit Illinois in 2002. There were 884 cases in the state that year, with 67 deaths. That remains the state's worst year since the virus was detected. Last year, there were 101 cases in Illinois, including four deaths.

No one has died of a West Nile Virus-related illness in McLean County since 2005. But we can't afford to get complacent. The number of cases is usually higher in hot summers.

You can protect yourself by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants and avoiding the outdoors during prime mosquito feeding times, between dusk and dawn. Repair or replace damaged screens now to keep mosquitoes out of your house.

You can protect others as well by getting rid of standing water around your property. That includes emptying water from bird baths at least once a week and replacing it with fresh water.

These steps also are helpful in preventing other mosquito-borne illnesses.

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