West Nile Positives Sharply Down from Prior Years, Threat Still Exists

8/12/2011

FLORENCE – We swat, put on repellant, wear long-sleeved clothing and yet we still seem to get bitten.  Its monsoon season in Arizona and yes, that means mosquitoes are included in the deal.

“Actually, we have mosquitoes throughout the entire year,” said Tami Schuler, Pinal County Environmental Health Specialist.  “But it seems that mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus are more active during the monsoon season.”

In an attempt to control West Nile, Schuler and her co-worker Garry Bouquot set up traps in many ‘hot spots’ where mosquitoes seem congregate.  The pair collects the traps, bring the captured mosquitoes into a small lab at the county complex in Florence and test for the dreaded virus.  If a site does come back with mosquitoes carrying West Nile, a fogging is scheduled.

“Fogging is only done in an effort to decrease the chance of West Nile virus in humans,” Schuler said.  “It is our goal not to rely on fogging as an answer to controlling mosquitoes.  The real work is done when residents help us reduce the places where mosquitoes breed.”

“I think the county has done a good job of informing people how to look for trouble areas like green pools, birdbaths, pet water dishes and water in old tires.  The residents have taken those suggestions to heart.”

As of July this year the drop in West Nile virus positives is staggering.

“At the end of the first half of 2010, we had 28 positives,” Schuler pointed out.  “In that same period this year we’ve only seen four.”

That is a 90 percent drop from 2010.  Schuler said the extremely dry conditions could play a factor in the low positive count.

The type of mosquito most likely to carry West Nile virus is one that favors breeding in ‘permanent water.’  Actually, these mosquitoes are here throughout the year and are mostly active from March to November.  They are usually found around ponds, green swimming pools and other areas that hold water for a long period of time.

There are also the garden variety ‘nuisance’ mosquitoes (aren’t all of them a nuisance?).  These are mosquitoes that appear a couple of days after a significant rainfall.  This type of mosquito is rarely infected with West Nile, thus not considered a public health threat.  They are active during the daytime, while the permanent water mosquito is active from dusk to dawn.   

The best bet to protect yourself from contracting West Nile is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside.  Limit outdoor activities from dusk to dawn while the permanent water mosquitoes are most active.  When you do go outside properly apply a mosquito repellant containing 23 to 30 percent DEET or any percentage of Picaridin.  Oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD and IR 3535 are effective as well.
 
“Vigilance is the key,” Schuler said.  “If you take a little extra time to protect yourself, then you lower the odds of getting bitten.  That’s time well-spent.”

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