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Avoid mosquito bites to prevent West Nile virus

Oct 03, 2017 02:45PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Map of the South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District. (sslvmad.org)

Gallery: Deadliest Animal on Earth [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

What is the deadliest animal on earth? It claims more lives every year than sharks, snakes, dogs, crocodiles, lions, and humans combined. The answer is the tiny mosquito. Mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, yellow fever, dengue, West Nile virus, Zika virus and many more.

West Nile virus is now found in most of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is most commonly spread to people by mosquito bites. In North America, cases of West Nile virus (WNV) occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. 

There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not have symptoms. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. Most people with this type of WNV recover completely, but can feel tired and weak for months. About 1 out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal illness. 

Sadly, one person who recently did not beat the odds was Hillcrest High School Coach Cazzie Brown, who died on Aug. 28 after a six-day battle with an infection that family members said was the West Nile virus. Many in the community mourned Brown’s loss.

Midvale City Councilman Wayne Sharp is the chairman of the South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement Board of Trustees. At a city council meeting on Aug. 1, Sharp commented on the fact that West Nile virus is a concern with mosquito bites, and had been found in the Salt Lake valley. 

“If water stands in your yard more than five days, it’s probably producing mosquitos. In five days mosquitos can hatch and be biting you,” said Sharp. He held up his glass of drinking water and said that less water than this can breed mosquitos.

Utah was the third state in the nation to adopt mosquito control legislation in 1923. The South Salt Lake Valley Mosquito Abatement District was organized as an independent local government district on June 7, 1952. It has a 15-member board of trustees comprised of representatives from each municipality within the district and a county at large person to oversee district operations. 

All operating funds come directly from property taxes paid by home and business owners within the district. The fee averages about $4.50 per year on a $250,000 home.

The Mosquito Abatement District’s (MAD) website, at sslvmad.org, features ways you can reduce your chance of getting mosquito bites. Foremost is by checking for stagnant water in your yard. Bird baths and other water features should be emptied or cleaned regularly to minimize mosquitoes in your yard.

In addition, you should empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers, flower pots and other items. Throw away or cover up stored tires and other items that aren’t being used. Clean pet water bowls weekly. Check if rain gutters are clogged. If you store water outside or have a well, make sure it’s covered up.

Another way to reduce your risk of WNV is by using insect repellant and wearing protective clothing. Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Permethrin sprayed on clothing provides protection through several washes. Products with a higher percentage of DEET generally give longer protection. 

Don’t spray repellent on skin under clothing. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. For more details on when and how to apply repellent, see www.cdc.gov/westnile.

A frequent source of backyard mosquitoes is ornamental ponds. To combat this common source, the MAD has a team of technicians to help homeowners enjoy these water features without steady swarms of mosquitoes. In April, registered homeowners receive a letter notifying them when the season will begin and reminding them to prepare their pond. 

Ornamental pond owners have at least two options for controlling mosquitoes, including putting live mosquito fish that aggressively eat mosquito larvae in the pond, or using briquettes that prevent mosquito larvae from hatching into adult mosquitoes. MAD technicians will schedule an appointment to deliver fish or briquettes or drop them off at the homeowner’s door.

“Mosquitoes continue to thrive in warm weather,” said Sharp. Taking these precautions can prevent the spread of serious diseases by the small but deadly culprit. 

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