Archive for Thursday, May 23, 1996

CITY BUZZING WITH RETURN OF PESKY SUMMERTIME PEST

May 23, 1996

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Got an itch? Those annoying mosquitoes are back.

Pulling out a white cloth, Jim Sanders wiped the bloody remains from his cheek.

"Oh man, they're about to eat me up this afternoon," Sanders said, chuckling as he took a break from yard work Wednesday at his south Lawrence home.

Mosquitoes are back in the area and drawing their first blood of the season.

The invasion seemed to start in the past few days, as the eggs that hatched during wet weather earlier this month brought the year's first wave.

"I think they've been worse the last two days than when I first noticed them three days ago," Sanders said. "I don't have all that much problem with them. They'll bite and swell up for a few minutes and go back down.

"My wife, she can't stand them even buzzing around. They're a nuisance, that's for sure."

And some can pose health risks.

The type of mosquitoes that can carry viral encephalitis are in this area, said Richard Ziesenis, director of environmental health for the Douglas County Health Department.

However, a three-year study of mosquitoes by the Kansas Department of Health in a six-county area, including Douglas County, found no traces of viral encephalitis, he said.

"There was not a single case," he said. "They monitored over 6,000 mosquitoes."

The viral illness causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include convulsions, headaches, fever and difficulty in speaking.

The health department doesn't spray insecticide to kill the adult mosquitoes because too many people complain, he said.

"In areas where there is standing water, the health department does have the capacity to go out to the site to apply larvacide treatment, which basically kills the larvae of the mosquito in the standing water," he said.

The best defense?

Use mosquito repellents on your skin and clothing, he said. But some people, particularly children, can have an allergic reaction to certain mosquito repellents, he said.

The other defense is to either empty or discard any water-retaining receptacles around the house where mosquitoes lay eggs, such as flower pots, old tires and bird baths. They seem to be most active at dawn or at dusk, he said.

David Alexander, an assistant professor of entomology at Kansas University, said mosquitoes are attracted to people through the carbon dioxide in their breath and the heat of their bodies.

"Some people are more attractive than others," he said.

He said the standard repellents contain a chemical called DEET.

"There's some evidence that garlic is actually a repellent," he said.

How do you stop the itch? Bridget Gillespie, a pharmacist at Walgreen Drug Store, 3421 W. Sixth, recommended hydrocortisone, a topical steroid.

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