What's being done about mosquitos?

July 22, 2010 4:47:38 PM PDT
We've all been swatting at mosquitos lately, but the mosquitos now hatching because of the recent rains aren't the ones that carry West Nile virus. It's the Culex mosquito and it likes stagnant water. So far, the virus hasn't been found in as many mosquitos as last year. The Culex mosquito carries the West Nile virus from birds to humans. Pamela Stark is an entomologist with Harris County Mosquito Control. She carefully sucks the mosquitos into a pipette then uses them in tests to make sure the mosquito sprays are still effective. They don't want the Culex to become immune, because the trucks spray where they find the virus.

In the lab where they test mosquitos for West Nile virus, they've found it 22 times this summer, mainly in west and southwest Houston and Harris County. Last year the virus was in 230 mosquito samples. But it's early yet. August is the high risk month, especially when it's wet like it is now.

When experts advise residents to get rid of standing water, they mean all of it. They say the amount of water in a bottle cap could actually breed 300 to 400 Culex mosquitos.

Harris County Mosquito Control Director Rudy Bueno, PhD, said, "When it rains of course a tree hole fills up with water. That's a perfect spot, so if it's reachable the best thing to do is fill it with sand."

Mosquitos can breed in a faucet, from overwatered plants, toys, the grill, the dog's water bowl, gutters and full storm drains. What hatches at your house, stays around your house.

Dr. Bueno said, "We don't have the infection levels that we had back the first or second year."

Two people have contracted West Nile virus so far this year in Houston and Harris County. Both recovered. Eight years ago when it first surfaced here, 78 people contracted it and four of them died.

What should you use to protect your family? Harris County Mosquito Control experts say DEET is best, then Bayrepel, then lemon eucalyptus oil. If you use a sunscreen, put it on first and then the repellent.


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