West Nile Virus: Sooner than Later

The tiny buzz bombers are back. Mosquitoes are in full swing in Texas and are bringing the West Nile Virus with them.

One of the first signs of the virus this year occurred in Plano, Texas (zip code 75074, northeast of the cross-section of SH-75 and President George Bush Turnpike). According to Scott Andrews of the City of Plano Environmental Health Department, “The confirmation came last Monday (June 19th) from samples we trapped and sent to the State Health Department. We sprayed the area for mosquitoes last Friday night and Saturday morning.  The bad news is that the West Nile Virus usually doesn’t show until late summer or even the fall.”

The Southern House Mosquito is a known vector of West Nile Virus

Andrews attributes the early appearance of the virus to the mild winter. Human cases of West Nile virus usually peak from August to September, when mosquitoes transition from sucking the blood of birds in the early part of the summer to sucking the blood of people and other mammals. This year’s mild winter appears to have sped up the transition, and could lead to earlier problems and a higher incidence of mosquito-borne diseases this year.

Indeed, yesterday saw the first confirmed case of WNV in Dallas county, and human cases have already been reported from Denton and Parker counties, according to a Dallas Morning News story.

According to Zachary Thomas of the Dallas County Health Department, we shouldn’t be complacent about mosquitoes, especially this year. “We are urging Dallas County residents to be proactive in the prevention of West Nile virus,” he said. “People have to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, draining standing water near their homes, and completely mosquito-proofing themselves and their homes.”

What you can do

The most important thing we can all do is  use insect repellent properly.  Fortunately the National Pesticide Information Center recently developed a calculator to help you choose the best repellent for your daily activities.  If you are only out for a short period of time, you may not need the strongest repellent.

Besides repellent, follow the Dallas County Health Department recommendations to make sure you aren’t breeding mosquitoes in your own backyard.  To learn more about where mosquitoes breed, and what you can do for them, check out the Mosquito Safari website.

Wearing light colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts and long pants also provides protection from mosquitoes.

For more information

Check out this recent article from the Forth Worth Star-Telegram on repelling mosquitoes. It discusses age-old remedies, homemade repellents, and even commercial products which are often thought to ward off mosquitoes.

Also, check out the Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus brochure from the Texas Department of State Health Service and the City of Plano Health Department  for more ways to prevent mosquitoes from upsetting your summer.

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