During our recent warm spell, you may have heard the distinctive, high-pitched buzz of a mosquito passing by, and you realize that this is the beginning of several months of those little pests.
Pests they are, yes, but mosquitoes can also carry serious diseases. Some of the mosquito-borne illnesses are limited to tropical or subtropical areas, but some can also affect us here.
West Nile Virus, for example, is carried by mosquitoes and can infect humans and animals. It usually causes no symptoms at all, but in some instances can cause encephalitis, which can even be fatal.
Recently we’ve heard about the Zika virus. It is spread by mosquitoes (and can also be sexually transmitted). So far, the virus hasn’t come this far north except by someone who has traveled to an affected area, and those who returned infected from their travels have not spread it to others. To read about the possible spread of Zika to new areas this year, and to learn about its symptoms and results, you can find a series of informative articles by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here. Zika is especially dangerous in pregnant women because it can cause very serious birth defects.
Good health means good prevention, so it is always advisable to keep insects at bay.
- Avoid mosquitoes by remembering that they are most active at dawn and dusk, and they love damp, dark areas like woods, mulched gardens, areas around ponds, etc. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you think you may be exposed to mosquitoes, and use repellent. Never use a repellent on a child younger than two months, and never spray directly into a child’s face (spray it on your hands first, then rub onto the face). An article about insect repellents from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives great information about repellents and children.
- Be proactive in eliminating as many mosquitoes as possible from your home and yard. The Health Department of Northern Kentucky gives these suggestions on their website:
- Survey property for areas of standing water. Dispose of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water. Do not allow water to accumulate in the containers for more than two days.
- Install or repair screens. Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside with well-fitting screens on both windows and doors.
And, Dr. Riebel in our practice says that her favorite form of mosquito control for our area is the purple martin! These lovely birds love to fly around your yard in the evening, scooping up insects.
Have a safe and healthy warm-weather season, and try to keep mosquitoes and the diseases they carry at bay.
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