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Mosquitoes, their eggs, and larvae, can be found in and around stagnant water. The best way to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and populating around your home would be to, of course, remove any stagnant water. Southern California sees less mosquitoes during dry weather seasons compared to wet humid areas in the US, but they are still present and can spread such diseases as encephalitis virus or the west nile virus.
Mosquitoes life cycle goes through 4 stages and spotting them in any one of these stages can help in controlling them. The stages are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The first three stages all remain in the same stagnant water from when the eggs were laid.
The typical adult mosquito should not be confused with the mosquito hawk or the Crane Fly. Crane flies do not prey on mosquitoes, nor do they bite humans. Some larval crane flies are predatory and may eat mosquito larvae. Adult crane flies feed on nectar or they do not feed at all; once they become adults, most crane fly species exist as adults only to mate and die.
The West Nile virus is a type of virus known as a flavivirus. Researchers believe West Nile virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a person.
Mosquitoes carry the highest amounts of virus in the early fall, which is why the rate of the disease increases in late August to early September. The risk of disease decreases as the weather becomes colder and mosquitoes die off.
Although many people are bitten by mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, most do not know they've been exposed. Few people develop severe disease or even notice any symptoms at all.
Mild, flu-like illness is often called West Nile fever. More severe forms of disease, which can be life threatening, may be called West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis, depending on what part of the body is affected.
Risk factors for developing a more severe form of West Nile virus include:
- Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, organ transplants, and recent chemotherapy
- Older age
West Nile virus may also be spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. It is possible for an infected mother to spread the virus to her child through breast milk.
Of the 720 cases, 373 (52%) were reported as West Nile meningitis or encephalitis (neuroinvasive disease), 322 (45%) were reported as West Nile fever (milder disease), and 25 (3%) were clinically unspecified at this time. Please refer to state health department web sites for further details regarding state case totals.
Mosquitoes & the ENCEPHALITIS ALERT
Tips about mosquitoes for Parents
A Public Health Alert has been issued frequently in the last couple of years due to the transmission of St. Louis encephalitis virus, a potentially deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Nighttime mosquito bites become more dangerous in neighborhoods where mosquitoes are known to be infected with the virus. Don't leave protection to chance by relying on home remedies, bath oils, or gadgets like ultrasonic repellents. Your children are not always by your side, so it is important to educate them about the dangers of biting mosquitoes. There are precautions you can take to reduce the mosquito breeding and resting sites around your home. Follow the tips outlined below.
First Things First:
- Anytime you or your children are outdoors during an encephalitis alert, make sure an effective repellent is used. Dawn and dusk are the peak biting times for mosquitoes infected with St. Lois encephalitis virus.
- Dress children in light-colored, loose-fitting long sleeved shirts and long pants when mosquitoes are at their worst.
- Choosing the repellent most suitable for your family is most important. Select a repellent containing the active ingredient DEET (N, N diethyl-toluamide) like OFF!* Skintastic*.The duration of protection for repellents depends on the DEET concentration. The higher the concentration, the longer the protection time.
- If you prefer not to use DEET, opt for Skin Skreen and reapply more often.
- When applying repellent to children, use just enough to cover exposed skin. Use common sense and always follow label instructions. When applying to a child's face, parents should put repellent on their own hands first and then apply it to the child. Remember mosquitoes will find an unprotected area as small as a dime.
- For extra protection, clothes may be sprayed with repellent. Follow label directions.
- Never apply repellents to infants.
- If your budget can run to it buy a bug zapper which vastly reduce the mosquito threat in your immediate location.
Take Extra Precautions:
- Make your home and property less inviting to mosquitoes. Vegetation (shrubs and brush) control can reduce the number of mosquitoes that seek shelter from the heat of the sun. Night-active mosquitoes that may carry encephalitis will rest in dense vegetation around your house and then become active and blood feed after sunset.
- Encephalitis is sometimes transmitted from adult female mosquitoes to their eggs. Therefore it is a good idea to control standing water on and around your property to reduce potential mosquito breeding sites. Target any natural or artificial habitats where water typically collects including toys, tire swings, rain gutters, and natural wetlands around your home.
- Watch for public advisories concerning this encephalitis alert. If conditions warrant, outdoor nighttime activities may be cancelled.
Encephalitis symptoms appear five to 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito.
Seek medical advice IMMEDIATELY if two of the following symptoms appear:
- Sustained fever above 103 ºF
- Severe headaches
- Muscle aches and pain, disorientation, neurological ticks and tremors, or blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
Simple Yard Tips to Help Keep Mosquitoes Away
From Dr. Jonathan Day, Medical Entomologist and Professor, University of Florida
While standing water is where most mosquitoes lay their eggs, it is the adult mosquito that carries the encephalitis virus. Only in very rare cases is the St. Louis encephalitis virus passed from infected females to their eggs. This is why it is important to maintain yards to help reduce the number of adult mosquitoes, which may be carrying the virus. Here are some simple tips to help reduce the number of mosquitoes resting in your yard.
Lawn: Mosquitoes like to rest in tall grass. Keep your grass cut short.
Trees/Hedges/Bushes: Keep your tree branches, hedges and bushes trimmed from a ground level to height of 12 inches. The more shade you have - the more mosquitoes will be attracted to rest in your yard.
Tire Swing: Drill drainage holes in the bottom of tire swings to eliminate standing water that serves as an excellent mosquito breeding habitat.
Kiddie Pool: Empty it, clean it, and store it when not in use. Standing water can become stagnant and produce an optimum mosquito breeding site.
Sand Box: Make sure sand box toys are not flooded and left for long periods of time. A pail or push toy full of water is a potential breeding site for mosquitoes.
Litter: Remove litter from your yard. Mosquitoes can lay eggs virtually anywhere - including discarded wrappers, cans, and bottles.
Bird Bath: If you have a bird bath, flush it at least once a week to avoid stagnant, nutrient-rich water - a mosquito's favorite breeding ground.
Rain Gutters: Don't forget to clean out your rain gutters - debris can reduce flow, creating a mosquito haven.
Sun: Try to have lots of open space in your yard. Mosquitoes don't like direct sunlight. The more sun in your yard, the better for minimizing mosquito activity.
Rain Barrel: Empty rain barrels once a week. Standing water is an ideal breeding site for mosquitoes.
Pool: Treat pools with bleach, which kills off mosquito larvae.
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