Category Archives: Public health

What is chikungunya and why should we care?

Over 30 years ago as a graduate student taking a course in medical entomology, I learned about all kinds of diseases spread by insects.  By far, most of these were tropical and exotic-sounding.  I figured that, if I lived and worked in the U.S., my chances of encountering most of these pathogens was practically nil. Chikungunya (chik-un-GOON-ya) virus was one of those diseases I memorized way back then, and have since mostly forgotten.  The chikungunya disease was first described in 1952 during an outbreak in southern Tanzania (east Africa).  The name… Read More →

Most attractive contest

Where are you on the mosquito attractiveness scale?  Are you a “1” or a “10”?  Me?  I know that I’m more attractive to mosquitoes than my wife (she is much more susceptible to poison ivy… I think I’ll be content).  I suspect that I’m not a ten, though.  Several years ago I was asked to visit a Plano resident who was very upset about the mosquito problem around her home.  After searching her yard and poking about the surrounding neighborhood, the city health official and I had not… Read More →

Time to bait for fire ants!

If you haven’t tried them yet, fire ant baits are the best tools for really managing fire ants.  They are relatively inexpensive, require little labor to apply, and are safe for both you and the environment.  The biggest drawback of baits is that they cannot be used all year round. Instead applications must be timed to periods when fire ants are actively looking for food, foraging in ant worker lingo. Many years ago a researcher at Florida State University, named Sanford Porter, spent an entire year of his life (three times… Read More →

Rubbing alcohol not a good solution for bed bugs

The quest for home remedies for bed bugs appears to be never-ending.  However, in the latest revelations from researchers, it seems that very few home insecticides are worth the time or trouble when battling bed bugs.  That’s not to say that some of these products won’t kill some bed bugs, but the ideal product for killing bed bugs just isn’t out there, experts say. A recent article in Science News  gloomily summarizes some of the most current information about DIY bed bug control, based on papers presented on bed… Read More →

September no time to forget West Nile virus

If you live in north Texas, chances are that you’ve been following reports of mosquito spraying efforts.  You may have heard that in September the risk from West Nile virus usually goes down.  However, the latest data shows that WNV risk may a actually be higher now than any time during 2013. Last summer’s record outbreak of WNV is, and we hope will remain, the benchmark for a dreadful year of mosquito-borne illness here in north Texas.  This summer has been much different, with only five human cases in Dallas… Read More →

West Nile virus perspective

This week I attended the West Nile virus survivors support group, hosted by Dr. Don Read and his wife Roberta at the Medical City Dallas Hospital. The group meets every two months or so and provides a forum for learning about the disease and allowing victims to share their experiences and learn from other people who have been down the same rough road. This month’s meeting ended up being very moving, hearing the stories of several people who came down with the illness last summer. One woman in… Read More →

What to do if you’re attacked by bees?

While honey bees are highly beneficial to man, they can also be dangerous.  If you don’t believe this, consider two Texas incidents this summer.  In June, a Waco area man was killed by honey bees while working on his tractor.  This past weekend a couple was severely stung and two of their miniature horses were killed following a bee attack at their Tarrant county home.  Both incidents illustrate how serious honey bee infestations can be. It’s not that bees are mean, in a human sense. But they do take exception… Read More →

Cedar oil claims challenged

The company claimed that their bed bug and head lice insecticide was invented by the U.S. Army, and that their product was acknowledged by the USDA as the number one choice of “bio-based” pesticides. The company also claimed that the U.S. EPA was warning consumers to avoid “chemical solutions” for treating bed bugs. The problem was that the company’s claims weren’t true. As a result of false claims and illegal marketing of untested products for bed bugs and head lice, yesterday the Federal Trade Commission issued a judgment… Read More →

What’s the most dangerous insect?

Ask people what the most dangerous insect or spider and you’re likely to get a variety of answers.  Brown recluse spider…ANY spider, bees, scorpions, hornets, ticks, army ants… the list goes on.  But few entomologists or medical experts would likely dispute that the tiny mosquito is probably the most dangerous arthropod on the planet. To underscore this with just one of many mosquito-borne diseases, the World Health Organization has declared April 25th World Malaria Day.  While no one can fully know the historical impact of malaria, the incomplete… Read More →

Mosquitoes to make first showing of 2013

Spring rains and warmer weather usually spell mosquitoes.  To prove this to myself, I’ve been watching my backyard fountain slowly fill with recent rains, leaves and catkins from nearby oak trees. Last week I was rewarded(!?) with my first mosquito wigglers. “Wiggler” and “tumbler” are informal terms for the larval and pupal (immature) life stages of mosquitoes.  Mosquito wigglers live in water, and as soon as temperatures get warm enough to drive their development, they quickly mature and emerge from pools and containers wherever they may be found…. Read More →