Take steps to avoid mosquito bites

Given recent diagnoses of mosquito-borne diseases in a child and a horse in North Carolina – coupled with possible heavy rains from Hurricane Irene – an N.C. Cooperative Extension specialist advises people to take precautions when outdoors.

Dr. Mike Waldvogel, an Extension associate professor and urban entomology specialist at N.C. State University, noted that “standing water can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and when people spend time outdoors cleaning up after a storm, they are more likely to get bitten.”

“This doesn’t mean that you’re likely to get Eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus or other mosquito-borne diseases, but heavy rains will inevitably lead to increased mosquito activity, and it can make working outdoors unpleasant,” he added.

“Anyone working outdoors should take precautions, particularly early morning and evening when some of the more important mosquitoes species are most prevalent.”

The best thing to do, Waldvogel said, is to eliminate pockets of standing water as soon as possible to reduce the threat. When outdoors, use insect repellent on exposed skin, reapplying as needed.

“This is especially important if you’re perspiring heavily during cleanup efforts,” he said.

Products containing permethrin – for example, Permanone – can be applied to clothing.

North Carolina recently had its first reported case of Eastern equine encephalitis. A four-year-old horse in Halifax County was euthanized after contracting the illness, which can affect humans. While rare, it is more frequently found in Eastern North Carolina than in the Western region.

Last month, a Macon County child was diagnosed with the first case of LaCrosse encephalitis in North Carolina this year. Children under 16 and the elderly are the most susceptible to LCE, which is also rare and occurs more frequently in the Western part of the state than the Eastern.

Waldvogel said there are no human vaccines for either LCE or EEE, but there is an EEE vaccine available for horses. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian if they have questions about the vaccine.

Despite its name, EEE isn’t spread by horses. Rather, it can be spread when mosquitoes bite infected birds, then bite people or others animals.

Information about mosquitoes and other pests that may become problems following storms can be found on N.C. State University’s storm-related urban entomology page at http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/storm/

Cooperative Extension is an educational partnership of North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, county governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cooperative Extension has centers in all 100 North Carolina counties, and its programs focus on agriculture, natural resources, community and rural development, family and consumer sciences and 4-H youth development.

For contact information for your Cooperative Extension county center, see http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/counties.

-Dee Shore, 919-513-3117 or dee_shore@ncsu.edu
Media contact: Dr. Mike Waldvogel, 919-515-8881 or mike_waldvogel@ncsu.edu

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