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Officials warn of danger posed by mosquitoes

Published 6:27pm Wednesday, July 16, 2014

With the summer season in full swing, local residents venturing outside should stay mindful of mosquitoes and their potential to harm humans and animals.

Mosquitoes are small, dark flies that are capable of carrying and transmitting diseases among people and animals with which they come into contact.

Mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and encephalitis, are spread through mosquito bites.

Recently, cases of Chikungunya virus—which is normally found in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean—have been reported in the United States this year, including Alabama.

No diagnosed cases of Chikungunya virus have been reported in Chilton County yet.

Earlier this month, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a press release stating the ADPH Epidemiology Division investigated several suspected Chikungunya cases, including two Chikungunya clusters related to Haiti mission trips.

One confirmed case and four preliminary positive results for Chikungunya virus have been reported in Alabama, with patients in each case having a history of travel to Haiti or the Caribbean, according to the release.

ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories tested many of the residents for West Nile virus, malaria and dengue, and all tests were negative, the release said.

BCL submitted 10 Alabama residents’ clinical specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for Chikungunya virus laboratory testing.

Chikungunya virus is characterized by fever and joint pain, symptoms similar to those of dengue.

Any individual that thinks he or she has been infected with Chikungunya virus or another mosquito-borne disease is urged to report the suspected case to ADPH and prevent further spread of the virus by avoiding mosquito bites, applying DEET and staying indoors during the first week of illness.

A mosquito that bites an infected person can transmit the Chikungunya virus when it bites another person.

For more information about Chikungunya virus, visit Cdc.gov/chikungunya.

For more information about reporting a suspected case, call the ADPH Epidemiology Division (EPI) at 1-800-338-8374.

Unlike malaria, dengue and yellow fever, mosquito-borne encephalitis occurs commonly in Alabama and can cause lasting brain and nervous system damage, and in some cases, death.

Mosquito-borne encephalitic diseases include eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), West Nile Virus (WNV) and Chikungunya virus.

Mosquito bites result in itching, localized swelling and redness.

Digestive juices injected into the victim may cause an allergic reaction.

About 60 different species of mosquitoes can be found in Alabama, according to information from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Some species carry diseases, while others are nuisance species (bloodsuckers not known to transmit disease) or beneficial species.

The most common disease-carrying mosquitoes are the Asian tiger mosquito, Japanese encephalitis mosquito, southern house mosquito, yellow-fever mosquito and eastern treehole mosquito.

The yellow-fever mosquito is gradually being replaced by the Asian tiger mosquito as particularly common in Alabama.

Two ways to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases is reducing mosquito breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes must have water in which to breed, so eliminating sources of standing water where mosquitoes could breed is recommended.

“Anything that can hold water, people need to eliminate that,” said Keith Jackson, senior environmentalist with the Chilton County Health Department.

The following items can hold water and breed mosquitoes: buckets, bottles, cans, bird baths, flower pots, vases, pet dishes, water bowls, unmaintained swimming pools, uncovered boats, children’s toys, wading pools, clogged roof gutters, tree holes and old tires.

Tips for controlling potential mosquito breeding sites are to:

•Discard or overturn any unused containers that can hold water.

•Change the water in bird baths and outdoor vases at least weekly.

•Keep swimming pools clean and properly maintained.

•Change the water in pet dishes frequently.

•Store children’s toys under cover where they will not collect water.

•Change the water in children’s wading pools frequently.

•Clean out gutters regularly.

•Keep boats drained or covered so they will not collect water.

•Fill tree holes that collect water with sand or mortar.

•Store old tires under cover or dispose of properly.

•Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.

Other tips for preventing bites are to:

•Wear loose clothing that covers up as much skin as possible. Dark clothing and fragrances attract mosquitoes, so avoid them.

•If a mosquito repellent that contains DEET (N-diethyl-methyl-meta-toluamide) is used, read the instructions carefully and wash treated skin when finished needing protection. Use products containing 10 percent or less DEET for children and no more than 30 percent for adults. Do not use anything with DEET on infants.

•Avoid going outside in early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.

•Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, so yards need to be checked twice weekly for anything containing water, which need to be dumped, covered, flushed out with the hose, filled or turned upside down.

•Residents who have a garden pool that does not have a pump to circulate the water or if standing water cannot be drained can use larvicide to kill any mosquito larvae in the water.

If bitten, the victim is urged not to scratch but to lather the affected area with soap and rinse to avoid infection.

Apply antiseptic, calamine lotion or antihistamine cream to relieve itching.

For more information, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health website at Adph.org/westnilevirus, call the Chilton County Health Department at (205) 755-8407 or contact a health care provider.

For information about controlling other warm-weather pests including fire ants, snakes and spiders, visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s website at Aces.edu or the Chilton County Health Department, located at 301 Medical Center Drive in Clanton.

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