Official: Mosquito population hinges on action, not rain
by Matt Shinall
Jul 18, 2013 | 1017 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Only you can prevent West Nile Virus,” might sound like something a fictional woodland creature might say, but actually it’s closer to the advice coming from Northwest Georgia Public Health, which is urging residents to take action to protect themselves from the summertime disease spread by mosquitoes.

With recent heavy rainfall, concerns about increased mosquito populations may arise, but needing only half an inch of water to breed, mosquitoes will persist as long as stagnant water can be found and will not necessarily increase in unusually wet weather.

“The heavy spring and heavy early summer rains that we’ve been having, in many instances, actually keep most mosquito larvae flushed out of holes, ditches and manmade containers,” said Northwest Georgia Public Health Public Information Officer Logan Boss. “Mosquito larvae will not survive when washed into streams or onto the ground. They only breed in stagnant water, so the heavy rains themselves are not the problem — and in fact, in many cases, help. It’s when we have rain, of any amount, and stagnant pools of water are left behind.

“That’s why we always ask people to take action around their home and property to eliminate or treat stagnant waters that are used by mosquitoes.”

Boss has found that most stagnant water sources are manmade and points to common issues, including abandoned children’s pools, flower pots, wheelbarrows and old tires. Other water sources, such as small ponds, typically support a habitat for fish, birds or other wildlife that will feed on mosquito larvae.

Because of a mosquito’s limited range, self-inspection and removal of point sources is typically highly effective in ridding a residence of the pesky insect.

“Mosquitoes typically never travel more than 300 feet from where they breed,” Boss said. “Breeding cycles are about two weeks, so you need to systematically eliminate or treat standing water at least every two weeks throughout the summer.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed one case of West Nile Virus this year statewide. The only confirmed human case in Georgia this year was an adult patient infected in May in Brantley County. By the end of July last year, 12 human cases of West Nile Virus had been confirmed in the state.

2012 was an especially deadly year for West Nile Virus, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 5,674 confirmed cases resulting in 286 deaths in 48 states. The total number of cases reported was the highest since 2003 and the number of West Nile attributed deaths in 2012 was the highest since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999.

“Most people get infected with West Nile virus by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to humans and other animals,” states the CDC website, www.cdc.gov. “In a very small number of cases, West Nile virus has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

“The incubation period is usually 2 to 6 days but ranges from 2 to 14 days. This period can be longer in people with certain medical conditions that affect the immune system.”

Most people, 70 percent to 80 percent, who contract West Nile Virus will never develop any symptoms. About one in five who are infected will develop a fever and possibly other symptoms, including headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than 1 percent, however, who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/westnile.