Mosquito season brings potential health concerns

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

With the confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Zika virus causes serious birth defects like microcephaly, mosquito control and protection measures are increasingly important.

Currently all cases of the Zika virus found in the United States originated elsewhere. But the type of mosquito capable of transmitting the virus — aedes aegypti — exists throughout the southern United States.

West Nile virus also continues to be a concern in Mississippi. In 2015, there were 2,060 cases of West Nile virus in the United States and 119 deaths caused by the disease, according to data published by the CDC. There were 39 total cases in Mississippi.

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Brookhaven Public Works Director Steve Moreton said the city budgets $100,000 each year on the chemical insecticide that trucks spray throughout the city. Last year the city spent $150,000 on chemicals alone, Moreton said, not counting manpower.

Alderman Shirley Estes said the city adds insecticide specified for mosquito larvae to ditches in which standing water accumulates. The city does this to ditches that do not drain properly to squelch the mosquito population as temperatures rise.

MSU Extension agent Rebecca Bates said one important thing residents of Lincoln County can do to reduce the mosquito problem is to remove sources of standing water from their property.

“That could be something as simple as a wheelbarrow,” Bates said. “Or old tires that water can accumulate in. Pots in the yard that might hold water. Anything like that needs to be dumped.”

Larger, more permanent bodies of standing water can be treated to kill mosquito larvae, but mosquitoes only need a little water to lay their eggs in, and when they do, full-grown mosquitoes come quickly.

“Mosquito females generally deposit between 50 to 400 eggs,” Bates said. “Eggs hatch in 24 to 48 hours. If conditions are good, they become an adult in 5 to 7 days.”

When going out, Bates suggests wearing long sleeves when possible. Insect repellent containing DEET is also effective, according to Bates. For those evening get-togethers, Bates said fogging is also effective.

“Let the fog dissipate in the area,” Bates said. “It works probably only for an hour or two. You’re basically knocking out the ones in the area.”