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Archive for Friday, June 12, 2009

Wet spring means pests galore

Prairie Park Nature Center naturalist Tasha Schultz, left, and nature education supervisor Marty Birrell prepare to vaccinate Lakota, the center’s male golden eagle. Nine of the center’s birds of prey were vaccinated Wednesday against West Nile virus, which they can get from mosquitoes. The birds are used in the center’s education program and live outdoors, where they are more susceptible than humans to mosquito bites.

Prairie Park Nature Center naturalist Tasha Schultz, left, and nature education supervisor Marty Birrell prepare to vaccinate Lakota, the center’s male golden eagle. Nine of the center’s birds of prey were vaccinated Wednesday against West Nile virus, which they can get from mosquitoes. The birds are used in the center’s education program and live outdoors, where they are more susceptible than humans to mosquito bites.

June 12, 2009

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Disease cases

The following suspected cases of mosquito- and tick-borne diseases have been reported to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department since 2005:

• Lyme disease: 27

• West Nile encephalitis: 3

• West Nile fever: 9

• Rocky Mountain spotted fever: 53

On the street

What bugs bother you the most?

Cockroaches, because they multiply and they’re scary and they get into everything.

More responses

If those annoying blood-sucking insects haven’t started bugging you yet, get ready. Local health and bug experts expect a larger number of summer insects this year, as compared with last year.

“The wetter the spring and summer, the more mosquitoes and ticks,” said Richard Ziesenis, director of environmental health for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. “This has been a wet spring.”

All the spring showers are creating prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, he said.

Although mosquitoes are already going through the cycle of hatching eggs in standing water, maturing into adults and starting to feed on people, Ziesenis said he expects the numbers of mosquitoes will increase through the summer.

Different mosquitoes come out at different times during spring, summer and fall, said Chip Taylor, Kansas University entomologist.

“As long as wet conditions persist, we’re going to have a significant mosquito buildup,” he said.

Mosquitoes are most active in the early mornings and evenings, and around standing water. Ticks pose the greatest hazard to hikers, people who are fishing and others who find themselves in weedy areas or around trees, Ziesenis said.

The health department is most concerned about the diseases both insects can carry and spread. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus, while ticks can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. The diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes are harmful not only to humans, but also pets, horses and livestock, Ziesenis said.

West Nile virus primarily circulates between birds and mosquitoes, but mammals can be infected if bitten by a mosquito that carries the disease. Symptoms for humans include fever, headache and muscle weakness.

To avoid bug bites, health officials recommend people wear bug spray containing the chemical DEET when outside. They say it’s the most effective way to repel bugs, and it’s best to apply it before you’re bitten, instead of after the first bite.

The health department also recommends using BTI briquettes, a biological tool that kills mosquito larvae before they become flying, biting adults. The doughnut-shaped, environmentally friendly item can be purchased at hardware stores and should be placed in standing water in ditches, birdbaths and other potential breeding sites around your home, Ziesenis said.

The health department places the briquettes in public-owned ditches around town when people call in complaints, which Ziesenis said are more numerous this year. The health department will not place them on private property.

As for ticks, KU professor Greg Burg, who studies the insect, said he hasn’t seen a large number of ticks in the Lawrence area during his research this year. But, he said their numbers could be delayed.

“There’s got to be a fairly delicate balance between too much and too little rainfall,” Burg said. “It may be that the ticks are going to come out in larger numbers from here on.”

If a tick gets hold of you, the health department said you should use tweezers to slowly remove it. Also, Ziesenis recommended preserving the tick in a small jar of alcohol, so the bug can be tested by health professionals in the event you develop flu-like symptoms.

Comments

kittycat 4 years, 10 months ago

Ticks can also carry cytauxzoonosis, a protozoa that infects bobcats. It doesn't bother the bobcat, but if a tick bites an infected bobcat, and then bites a domestic cat, the cat will probably die. Fatality rate is 95%. Symptoms are lethargy, very high fever, and anorexia. We live in McLouth, and have lost three cats since May 10. We think we picked the ticks up while walking on some land out by Perry, and brought them home to the cats. The disease is also called bobcat fever. Little research is being done, because it's mostly a rural disease and rural people are used to losing a few animals here and there.

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Shardwurm 4 years, 10 months ago

That bird looks like it's just about cooking size.

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srages 4 years, 10 months ago

Please remember that ticks are not insects. This article refers to them as such at least twice. Ticks are arthropods, like insects, but they are in a different class, the arachnids, along with spiders and some others.

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blue73harley 4 years, 10 months ago

Our city swamp means pests galore.

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