New Mosquitoes, Rainy Spring Ups West Nile Risk
If it seems as though the mosquitoes are worse this year, it isn't your imagination. A combination of factors — including the wettest June on record and an invasion of an aggressive mosquito species — have conspired together to to make this summer itchier than in the past. Add on an increase risk of West Nile Virus over the past few seasons and the buggers have gone from pesky to problematic.
Cases of West Nile Virus, a disease that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, increased more than 10-fold in the state from 2011 to 2012. What's more, testing of mosquito pools across the state revealed Bergen County had the highest number of WNV-positive pools in the state.
The recent invasion of the Asian tiger mosquito adds a new twist to the problem. Unlike native mosquitoes that come out at dusk, the tiger variety feeds throughout the day and night, and breeds prolifically. Throughout the world, the tiger mosquito is known for spreading viral diseases such asyellow fever, St, Louis Encephalitis, dengue fever and West Nile Virus.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus
Most people who become infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms. Roughly 20% will have a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people recover completely from the disease, although fatigue and weakness may linger for several weeks. Less than 1% of infected individuals develop serious neurologic illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis, which can turn deadly. West Nile Encephalitis can occur in people of any age, however those ages 60 and above are most at risk.
Monitor Your Yard
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and take less than a week to go from larvae to adult. The Bergen County Division of Mosquito Control urges residents to routinely monitor their property and to dump any standing water. Turn over any cans or bins that may collect water and clear rain gutters regularly, especially those that have a tendency to clog.
For pools and ponds, the county recommends aerating ornamental pools to keep the water moving and regularly cleaning and clorinating swimming pools, even those not in use, and removing any water that collects on pool covers. For stagnant pools of water, homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. This naturally occurring bacteria kills mosquito larva, but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Protect Your Family
In addition to eliminating standing water in your yard, the county offers the following suggestions to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:
• Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
• Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
• When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods, usually April through October.
• Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
To contact the Bergen County Division of Mosquito Control about a mosquito problem, call 201-634-2880.
Do you have a secret recipe for preventing mosquito bites? Share it in the comments!