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Front Page » July 14, 2009 » Carbon County News » USU Extension entomologist outlines tips to curb West Nil...
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USU Extension entomologist outlines tips to curb West Nile virus risks

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USU Extension writer

West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999. The virus was detected in Utah in 2003.

West Nile virus is transmitted by female mosquitoes while taking a blood meal that is required to develop the insect's eggs, explained Utah State University Extension entomologist Diane Alston.

Horses, humans and some birds - particularly crows, ravens and jays - are susceptible to West Nile virus.

Approximately 80 percent of humans infected with West Nile virus never show symptoms, continued the USU Extension entomologist.

The majority of people's immune systems are healthy enough to overcome the virus.

However, up to 20 percent of the individuals bitten by infected mosquitoes will develop West Nile fever and display symptoms similar to the flu.

Symptoms typically last a few days and should be treated by drinking fluids and resting, pointed out Alston.

About one in 150 people infected will become seriously ill and require hospitalization, continued the USU entomologist.

People older than 50 years of age and individuals with compromised immune systems are at higher risk to develop more serious complications from West Nile virus.

The USU Extension entomologist recommended that Carbon County residents consider several tips to protect themselves from the virus.

According to Alton, local residents should:

•Wear clothing that reduces exposure to mosquito bites.

Examples include long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes.

•Stay indoors during peak flight activity.

Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most actively feeding from dusk through dawn.

•Apply a repellent.

DEET is an effective mosquito repellent available in several concentrations.

Products containing DEET have a relatively low risk to humans and the environment, noted the USU Extension entomologist.

DEET can be applied to the skin, but should not be applied directly to the face.

Children should use DEET sparingly because of eye and mucous irritations, cautioned Alston.

Picaridin is an alternative for people with sensitivities to DEET-based products, noted the USU Extension entomologist.

Picaridin is effective, almost odorless and can be applied directly to the skin.

Another repellent, BioUD, can be applied to the skin and has no child restrictions, added Alton.

Unlike DEET, BioUD will not melt plastic and is not flammable.

Permethrin is another highly effective repellent and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing, shoes and camping gear.

Oil of eucalyptus is a plant-based repellent and is about as effective as applying low concentrations of DEET.

•Eliminate standing water from yards and nearby fields.

Because the insect's eggs are deposited in standing water, anything people do to reduce breeding sites will decrease the number of adult mosquitoes.

Suggestions include improving landscaping to minimize pooling water in ditches and other low spots in the yard.

•Keep containers clean and dry.

People should empty and clean watering cans, flower pots or other potential sources of standing water when they are not in use.

Holes should be drilled in the containers to allow drainage.

Garbage cans and recycling bins can hold rain water for days, warned Alton.

•Maintain pools with fresh water.

In addition, people should frequently change the water around the property, including fish or ornamental ponds, bird baths and pet bowls.

Ornamental ponds with flowing water, such as from waterfalls, are not conducive to mosquito breeding.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

•Properly chlorinate swimming pools and hot tubs to discourage female mosquitoes from laying eggs.

•Prevent mosquitoes from entering the home.

People should keep windows and doors closed, repair torn screens, insulate window fans or air conditioners and close fireplaces when not in use, concluded the USU Extension entomologist..

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