Recently we got a flyer from the County Vector Control Program about mosquitoes and West Nile virus, and I thought I would pass along some of the information. Even though most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito won’t get sick, some will have mild symptoms and a few will become extremely ill. So it makes sense to take some precautions.
So how dangerous is West Nile virus (WNV)? Again, if you are most people, not dangerous at all. A friend of mine who lived in Egypt for some time tells me that over there WNV is no big deal because people have been living with it for generations. If you are one of the few who do get sick, you will most likely have some flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, headaches, and perhaps a rash. Still not something that you need to worry greatly about. However, if you are part of the small percentage that is seriously infected, then you need to be concerned. The most seriously infected can develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) or meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord). Either way, this is bad news. The best way to combat WNV is to make sure there are no places for the little biters to breed.
Most people are aware that mosquitoes breed in standing water, and usually we think of that in connection with rain. I know we haven’t had any rain for several months, but there are other ways for standing water to occur. If you have anything outside that can hold water, and it happens to be where you regularly water, then you might have a potential breeding spot. If you have a pond, natural or artificial, you have a potential breeding spot. If the house next door has been repossessed and has been empty for some time, the swimming pool is also a potential breeding spot.
What do you do about potential breeding spots? Well, if it is a plant saucer or some other easily dumped item, dump it and move it where it won’t get accidentally filled. If you have a birdbath, simply make sure you flush it out regularly. If you have a pond, pick up some mosquito fish (Gambusia sp.) and toss them in. They may not be flashy, but they can be fun to watch as they dart around looking for a snack. Plus, you can get them free at several locations (see below) through the Vector Control Program.
Finally, how do you protect yourself in case your neighbor is unknowingly breeding mosquitoes? Here are a few suggestions:
- Wear pants and long-sleeved, light colored clothes outside so you can see the mosquitoes before they bite. This is especially important at dawn and dusk, when they are most active.
- Use insect repellents – look for brands that contain DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR 3535. Remember to follow directions.
- Check your window and door screens to make sure they fit tightly and have no holes in them – unless you want to be bitten indoors as well as outdoors.
Will all these steps guarantee that you won’t be bitten? Of course not, but at least they will increase your chances of avoiding the bite. And for extra measure, report any dead birds (they might harbor the virus) or neglected swimming pools (green is not good here) to Vector Control. Links and contact information are below…
Vector Control: 888-551-INFO (4636)
You can find free mosquito fish distribution locations here: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/pests/mosquitofishlocations.html
The closest locations to Santee are Koi Koi Living Jewels on Jamacha Rd. in El Cajon, and Fountain’s Aquarium on University Ave. in La Mesa.
Good luck, and watch for those little buggers.