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Public’s help asked to curb mosquitoes

HATTIESBURG — Health officials are urging public support inefforts to curb outbreaks of the West Nile virus.

Public support is crucial, said Dr. Jerome Goddard, a medicalentomologist for the state’s Bureau of Environmental Health,because state and local officials cannot control the mosquitopopulation alone.

The public can assist the most by removing or eliminating anystanding, still water in their yards.

“Artificial containers as small as a soda cap can breedmosquitoes,” Goddard said.

There are many species of mosquito, he said, and the onebelieved to be the main culprit behind West Nile, theCulex family, breeds predominantly in standing water. TheCulex family is commonly referred to as the Southern HouseMosquito and believed to be the main West Nile carrier inMississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

“The nastier the water, they better they like it,” Goddard said,adding that standing water from leaking septic tanks is especiallytempting because of the organic matter found in it.

Water pooling in drainage ditches, old tires, cups, discardedpotato chip bags and field depressions are also preferred, hesaid.

“They breed in junk — stuff kept around the house that willhold water,” Goddard said.

Other common receptacles for breeding includes bird baths, dogdishes, clogged roof gutters, swimming pools and driveway potholes.Goddard urged citizens to dump these containers at least every fourdays or to drill a hole in the bottom of them to drain water whenpossible.

“Mosquitoes can develop in any standing water that lasts morethan four days,” said Dr. Sally Slavinski, a public healthveterinarian.

Other tips include ensuring all windows and doors have screensand are intact and to wear clothing suitable to provide a “physicalbarrier,” such as long-sleeved and long-legged clothing whenoutdoors.

“People should avoid mosquitoes when the insects most activelylook for blood meals — at dawn and dusk,” said State HealthOfficer Dr. Ed Thompson. “They should follow label directions touse mosquito repellent with DEET.”

Thompson suggested adults use a repellent with 10-30 percentDEET and lower concentrations of 10 percent or less forchildren.

“The public has been very good — a very effective tool,”Slavinski said.

She said the public should also continue to help them inmonitoring the spread of the virus by submitting dead birdreports.

The agency has discontinued testing dead birds in counties thathave already been found to have a positive case, but Slavinskiurged citizens to continue to report dead birds.

Tests are no longer needed in those counties, she said, becausethey know it’s there. By reporting dead birds, they can verify it’sstill there and track it’s movements statewide.

The MSDH may begin urging citizens in those counties to againsubmit dead birds for testing at a future date, she said, butpresently they are swamped with birds from counties that do nothave a confirmed case.