Besides leaving annoying, itchy spots behind, some mosquitoes carry diseases that can have lasting effects on people. West Nile Virus is the most common and most heard of human disease, but recently mosquitoes in the U.S. have been infecting people with chikungunya. Most symptoms are pretty rare – about one in twenty people will come down with flu-like symptoms. In about one percent of those cases, these diseases can cause neurological illness (swelling of the brain or surrounding tissue), long-term joint pain, paralysis and even death. There is no treatment or vaccine for these diseases.
Fortunately, it is easy to prevent – don’t get bit! Bug repellent with DEET, applied as directed, is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and your family. Even children and pregnant women should wear repellent. Other repellent options include sprays with picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLD) or PMD, or IR3535. Covering up with long sleeved, light weight clothing can also deter mosquitoes.
In Utah, there are about 50 different types of mosquitoes and they will pester people at all hours. However the breeds that carry disease are almost exclusively night time biters – especially the hours from dusk to about midnight. That’s why it is especially important to protect yourself “from dusk till dawn.”
Prevention experts also say there are things you can do to “mosquito-proof” your yard and home:
- Repair screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out
- Drain standing water in tires, buckets, or similar water-holding containers these are place for mosquitoes to breed
- Change the water in birdbaths at least weekly
- Flush pot drain pans regularly
- Treat ornamental pools and ponds for mosquito larvae (commercial products available at most home improvement stores)
- Repair leaky faucets and springs
- Clean clogged rain gutters and down spouts
For more information on how to protect yourself and your family, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/stopmosquitoes/index.html.