Mosquito season brings diseases
Mosquito season is getting close, assuming we get some rain. West Nile virus is a potentially serious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.
“These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.
“Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.”
West Nile virus originates in birds, particularly crows and closely related species. When the mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person, the virus is passed on.
Should we be concerned? Of course, as even a few cases can be serious, and we want to avoid them if we can. We also need to protect our horses which seem to catch the disease as well. I would encourage all horse owners to have their horses vaccinated.
Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes and other insects out. Empty standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels and similar containers. Change the water in bird baths weekly. Keep wading pools empty and on their sides when not in use. In other words, don’t provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes.
When you go outside, wear a good non-DEET mosquito repellent. Never use the DEET products that government agencies recommend as DEET — N,N-diethyl-m-toluamine — is a chemical that some people have severe reactions to. It is a fact that DEET works well as long as it is full strength. However, when it begins to weaken, it actually attracts mosquitoes and you have to put more on, which means absorbing more of the chemicals into your system. Every year one-third of the population uses insect repellants containing DEET, available in more than 230 products with concentrations up to 100 percent. There are very effective alternatives to DEET repellants and we should use them.
We can also wait for our state/county/city agency to come by and spray our neighborhood with a fogging unit mounted on a truck. Not a good idea. The pesticides they use to fog areas for mosquitoes are synthetic pyrethroids and they are not safe for humans or animals. This method of applying pesticides will kill dragonflies and other insects that feed on mosquitoes, but is not that effective against the target pests, the mosquitoes.
The CDC says spraying for mosquitoes from a truck is the least effective measure of control. The mosquito sprays will also kill birds, and bees, and possibly make any animals outside sick.
There are between 50 and 60 species of mosquitoes in New Mexico and seven of them are known vectors of encephalitis, WNV or dog heartworm. Two are known to carry WNV. They are Culex tarsalis and Culex quinquefasciatus. One species is a vector of dog heartworm. It is Culex salinarious. The mosquitoes that carry encephalitis are Aedes melanimon, Aedes sollicitans, Aedes vexans, Coquillettidia perturbans and Culex tarsalis.
If you have a pest control company treat your home regularly, you should have them sweep the foliage around your house with a net and collect any mosquitoes in the area. If they are competent, they can easily identify the potentially dangerous ones and let you know so you can take adequate precautions. If they aren’t able to do this, you may want to find another company.
I know companies that have a good knowledge of mosquitoes if you need one. If you have any pest questions or need some pests identified, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-385-2820.
My new booklet, “Pest (or Guests) & How to Manage Them Safely and Effectively” is available. You will like the price! I will send it and you can determine its value.