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Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2005

Take the bite out of mosquitoes

June 30, 2005

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Soon the rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air will be used to celebrate the freedoms of Independence Day. Many families will gather to grill and enjoy the great outdoors.

Also coming to the picnic will be many unwelcome visitors that want something other than food.

Although the hype of West Nile Virus has somewhat subsided, the fact remains that recent rains have allowed populations of mosquitoes to explode. The result is the need to be careful when spending time in nature. Here are a few reminders for how to stay safe when entering mosquito-infested territory this holiday weekend:

Douglas County reported the first case of West Nile Virus in the nation this year: a 51-year-old individual with probable West Nile Fever, according to Kim Ens, disease control program coordinator with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

The virus is spread when a female mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human. To minimize the chance of being bitten by an infected mosquito, use personal protection and common sense when entering mosquito-infested areas. When possible, wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, and use EPA-registered bug repellents containing DEET as the active ingredient. Other products that have proven to be effective are Picaridin (KBR 3023) or oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane 3, 8-diol). Be sure to read and follow label directions when using these products. Spray lightly on exposed skin and clothing.

Be sure to wash your hands and face before eating when using these products. Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness; if biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again.

For better results, combine personal protection with mosquito prevention. Because mosquitoes require water to lay their eggs, minimizing breeding sites minimizes mosquitoes. Unfortunately, continuous rainfall for 24 to 48 hours is all that is needed for the process to begin. Nevertheless, focus on obvious sources of standing water such as clogged drainage ditches, ponds and swamps. Also search for sites such as tree hollows, plant trays, clogged gutters, unused children's toys, discarded tires, and cans and other water-holding items. Removing the water will remove the mosquitoes. When possible, drain flooded or swampy areas. Clean up trash and turn over unused water-holding items. Use larvicides such as Bt Dunks or Bt Bits in larger water standing areas.

Bt is a naturally occurring toxin that is safe for mammals but is toxic to mosquito larvae when ingested. Trying to control adults is not advised because many mosquitoes are strong fliers and can travel long distances each night searching for a meal.

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