Preventing mosquitoes and West Nile

This illustration was used by Keith Fielder during his presentaiton, showing an actual photo taken in a backyard in Putnam County.


Tests have positively identified West Nile Virus in mosquito pools collected to test the insects for diseases, and there have been two people reportedly infected with the virus in DeKalb County. The Georgia Department of Public Health reported June 29 that infected mosquitoes were found during a regular trap and test monitoring activity in Houston County, but no infected persons were known. Since then, there have been two reports of people infected with the virus -- both in DeKalb County, where 30 mosquito pools have tested positive for the virus, according to reports.

West Nile Virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes feeding on humans, according to GDPH. The illness affects people differently. Most people infected with West Nile Virus will not develop any symptoms. The 20 percent of people that do show symptoms will usually develop a fever along with headaches, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash. Most people with these symptoms recover completely, but weakness and fatigue can last for months after the more severe symptoms disappear.

The disease is associated with more severe symptoms in rare cases. Less than 1 percent of those infected with West Nile Virus develop neurological illness like encephalitis or meningitis, characterized by inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues. Symptoms of these severe illnesses include fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, seizures, coma or paralysis. Though these outcomes of West Nile Virus can happen to anyone, people over the age of 60 and people with certain medical conditions are more at risk to develop these neurological disorders. About 10 percent of who develop neurological infection from West Nile Virus will die.

West Nile Virus has no vaccine or specific treatments. The symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medication to reduce fever and relieve pain and soreness. Always talk to your healthcare provider about introducing new medicine, especially if you have another medical condition or take prescription medication. If the virus leads to more severe symptoms, patients should be hospitalized to receive support treatment.

Below is an article published in July 2016 by The Eatonton Messenger, with Putnam County Extension Agent Keith Fielder telling how to prevent the disease:

Mosquitoes and your health

By Lynn Hobbs


Whether you are concerned about contracting Zika or West Nile, or simply find mosquitoes a nuisance, the tiny biting pests can be controlled, according to Putnam County Extension Agent Keith Fielder.

“It’s a simple message of prevention and control,” Fielder said. “If everyone would take it to heart and go in their yard and look at sources of standing water and take care of it, we would not have any problem at all.”

Fielder was the keynote speaker of a “Mosquitoes and Your Health” event Thursday, July 14.  University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Entomologist Elmer Gray was scheduled to speak, but had a last-minute conflict, so Fielder used Gray’s presentation. About 10 people attended the 1 1/2-hour presentation at the Putnam County Administration Building; it was hosted by the Putnam County Health Department and Cooperative Extension Office.

Busting myth 1: “Lakes produce mosquitoes”

For residents who live on the lake, all they have to do is look out their window to see a pooled water source, but that’s no big deal.

“It’s hard for me to convince people at the lake that yes, you see mosquitoes laying eggs on the water; but as soon as it does, trust me, the fish are coming up and eating it,” Fielder said. “The lakes are not the problem; but the neighbor’s pool that has a cover on it and is gathering rainwater is (a problem).”

Fielder emphasized repeatedly that stagnant, standing water is the ideal breeding habitat; water that is oxygenated or has fish is not the ideal nursery for immature mosquitoes.

Busting myth 2: “The Zika virus is a concern in Georgia”

Fielder blamed the media for spreading fear of Zika in Georgia. He said there are no cases in Georgia or the U.S. of mosquito-transmitted Zika. The approximately 20 cases in the state all originated outside the country, he said.

Only two mosquitoes have been found with Zika – the Asian tiger and the yellow fever mosquito. The yellow fever mosquito is only found very rarely near Columbus, Georgia. But since the Asian tiger mosquito is prevalent across the state and the number of people returning to the U.S. will increase throughout the summer, it only makes sense to stay on high alert against mosquitoes, Gray said in a recent report by UGA College of Agriculture and Sciences. That report also emphasized minimizing mosquito breeding and bites.

Fielder spent only a brief time talking about Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases  – malaria, dengue, West Nile, encephalitis, chikungunya, and heartworms in dogs.

“West Nile is the one we worry about the most,” he said. “But the best way to prevent them all is to prevent mosquito bites.”

People wishing to know more about mosquito-borne diseases should “go to Google and type in the words ‘Zika (or other disease) and CDC’ and hit the button and you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know,” Fielder said, referring to the Center for Disease Control website.

Prevention step 1: Education

“Mosquitoes require water to develop; the female requires a blood meal to gestate, and therein lies the problem,” Fielder said. “Males do not feed on blood.”

The female lays her eggs in water and the larvae feed on microorganisms in the water. The complete maturation cycle from egg to adult takes anywhere from six days to several months, depending on the conditions. Fielder said the female many times lays her eggs on moist soil in anticipation of flooding, and the eggs lay dormant for months until the rain comes.

“Like all God’s creatures, they have a built-in plan to survive no matter what,” he noted.

The most important factor is temperature – hot weather, at least 70 degrees, and hot water with a low oxygen level.

“So we have the ideal conditions right now,” Fielder pointed out. “They can lay an egg on Monday, and by Sunday, you’ve got a mosquito. The cycle is heavily driven by temperature.”

The Asian tiger mosquito only needs one tablespoon of water to lay eggs, so something that seems as insignificant as a soda bottle cap on the ground can become a breeding site after a rainfall.

The Asian tiger is an aggressive daytime feeder, primarily in the early morning and evening hours, although it will also feed other times during the day. It rarely is active at night, he said. It is easy to identify because it has very noticeable white marks that look like stripes on it.

Prevention step 2: eliminate breeding habitats

Fielder listed common sources of standing water people may have around their homes: fallen leaves, tires on the ground, buckets, cans, pans, corrugated drainpipes, clogged gutters, garden ponds (if they have goldfish, they are no problem), horse troughs (again, Fielder recommends putting goldfish in these), old boats, pool covers, plastic bags of potting soil or peat moss (“Remember, this time of year, we’re only talking one tablespoon of water and six days,” Fielder repeated), wheelbarrows propped up, flower pots or planters with drip trays, birdbaths, AC condensation puddles, stump holes, etc.

He noted that only 1/8 of an inch opening is all a mosquito needs to get into a container of water, and recommended somehow dumping or flushing out the water every 24-48 hours, or use pre-strike granules or mosquito dunks.

In urban areas, storm water retention areas, drains and culverts, as well as power line right-of-ways where mowers leave tire marks are concerns.

Prevention step 3: applying insecticides

As a beekeeper, Fielder said he does not encourage applying insecticides to any flowering plant. However, it is okay to spray ivy, shrubbery, and other spots mosquitoes like to roost, as long as there are no flowers present. Because adult mosquitoes roost inside groups of plants and under the leaves, he said it is necessary to spray “from the bottom up and from the inside out. Just spraying the tops of shrubs or grass is not going to do anything.”

“So a mosquito truck going down the street spraying really doesn’t do anything but help people feel better because they see it,” he noted.

Prevention step 4: repellents, fans, citronella, proper clothing

DEET is the No. 1 recommended choice for insect repellent, Fielder said, “but just remember, a little goes a long way.” He said do not saturate the skin, and always wash it off when returning to stay indoors. He recommended spraying one’s clothing and a hat with DEET. Use a strength of 30 percent or less on children, he said.

Citronella candles or oil work, as do thermal cells, “but the wind disperses them, so you’re taking a chance,” he said.

Air turbulence also drives the insects away, so Fielder said take a fan outside with you anytime you can. Also wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing because mosquitoes seem to like dark clothing, he added.

“Ultrasonic repellers – just say ‘NO’” Fielder said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”






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