Archive for the ‘Mosquitoes’ Category

April Designated as National Pest Management Month

The National Pest Management Association encourages homeowners to take steps to prevent infestations
FAIRFAX, Va. — The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) celebrates April as National Pest Management Month, an observance that has been taking place for more than 30 years. National Pest Management Month honors the professional pest control industry for playing a key role in protecting both health and property from significant pest-borne threats.

“The NPMA is pleased to have the opportunity to publicly recognize the important work that pest professionals do every day during National Pest Management Month,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “In honor of National Pest Management Month, the NPMA is dedicated to raising public awareness about the risks posed by household pests and encouraging homeowners to take proactive steps to prevent pest infestations in their homes and properties.”

Pest such as termites, rodents and carpenter ants can cause extensive property damage by chewing through walls, flooring and even electrical wiring. Other pests, including ticks, mosquitoes, cockroaches and stinging insects pose health threats to humans. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, while mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus. Cockroach allergens can trigger asthma attacks, while stinging insects send more than half a million people to the emergency room every year.

During April, the NPMA recommends that homeowners follow these tips to prevent pest infestations:

Seal up cracks and small openings along the foundation of the house.

Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.

Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.

Keep kitchens clean by wiping counters and emptying the garbage frequently.

Keep all food containers sealed.

Avoid leaving pets’ food dishes out for long periods of time.

Keep trash containers clean and sealed, both indoors and outdoors.

Screen windows and doors.

If you see signs of pests or suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional.



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FL ag commissioner urges protection against mosquito-borne diseases

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson says two cases of West Nile Virus have now been detected in horses in the state and the number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) cases continues to rise. Bronson is reminding horse owners to get the animals vaccinated. He is also urging the public to follow Florida Department of Health guidelines to help prevent mosquito borne illnesses in people. DOH is reporting that two people in Florida have died after contracting EEE this summer. Mosquitoes carry the viruses and can transmit it to horses and humans, however, horses do not transmit the viruses to people.

The West Nile cases affected horses in Jefferson and Osceola counties. There are also now 60 reported cases of EEE in horses in several dozen counties in Florida this year, including southern counties such as Miami-Dade, Okeechobee and Collier where EEE cases are much less frequent.

EEE and West Nile are viral diseases that affect the central nervous system and are transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the viruses include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma and usually death. EEE is fatal in horses in 90 percent of the cases. West Nile virus has a mortality rate in horses of about 30 percent. Studies show that in horses that do recover, anywhere from 20-40 percent show residual effects even after six months.

Bronson says there are vaccinations for both diseases but horse owners need to be diligent in not only getting their animals vaccinated, but also ensuring the vaccinations are kept up to date each year and booster shots are given.

“In the vast majority of cases we have seen this year, the horses either had no vaccinations at all or they were not current,” Bronson said. “We are seeing increases in mosquito populations and since mosquitoes are the carriers of both these diseases, it’s likely the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. I can’t stress enough the need for people to get these readily available vaccinations for their horses.”

While the incidence of EEE and West Nile is down in horses from what the state experienced earlier this decade, the cases continue to rise in 2010.

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Dengue Fever? What About It, Key West Says

 

By DENISE GRADY and CATHARINE SKIPP
A woman planning a Florida vacation in Key West called the health department there last week to ask if it were true that the city was being evacuated because of an epidemic of dengue fever.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A mosquito larva up close.

“No!” Chris Tittel, a spokesman for the Monroe County Health Department, says he told her. “No, no, no, no, no.”

 Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) is a viral illness, spread by mosquitoes, that can cause fever, headaches, body aches and a rash. Symptoms range from mild to severe, although some people have no symptoms.

Without a doubt, there is dengue in Key West, though at 27 known cases last year and 18 so far this year, it is hardly what most people would call an epidemic. But those cases are the first outbreak in Florida since 1934, and some medical experts fear that the disease, once rampant on the Eastern Seaboard, could take hold again.

Parts of the Caribbean and Central America are having epidemics now, but none of those infected in Key West had traveled outside the country. That means they caught the virus locally.

 News of the disease has apparently unsettled a few potential visitors. But tourism officials and business owners in Key West are even more unsettled, by the way the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has publicized the cases.

 On July 13, the centers issued a press release stating that an estimated 5 percent of Key West’s population showed evidence of recent exposure to the dengue virus. The estimate was based on tests of 240 residents, of whom 13 were positive. The 5 percent figure was reported by many newspapers, including The New York Times.

 That news was the last thing the city needed, with the economy already making the usual summer slump in tourism even worse. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has also scared some visitors away, even though the oil has been nowhere near Key West.

 “I don’t know if the C.D.C. understands what it potentially has done here,” said Andy Newman, the director of media relations for the Florida Keys and the Key West tourism council. He said he knew of a “smattering” of canceled trips, but suspected more.

 Robert Eadie, administrator of the health department, called the disease centers’ report “very alarmist.”

 Local officials were irked that the centers had used just 240 people to estimate an exposure rate for the whole city, which has a population of about 25,000.

 But scientists involved in the research are sticking to their story. Dr. Harold Margolis, chief of the disease centers’ dengue branch in Puerto Rico, said it was statistically valid to extrapolate from the 240 people tested.

 “Somehow the virus is getting there,” Dr. Margolis said.

 An infected visitor may have passed the virus to local mosquitoes, or a mosquito carrying dengue may have arrived on an airplane or cruise ship. Key West has plenty of Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito that can carry dengue.

 People are worried about being stigmatized, especially those with businesses. A restaurant owner who was infected a year ago agreed to be interviewed only if his name was not published, because he thought fear of the disease might keep customers away, even though the virus is not spread by food or personal contact. He said he had had a mild flulike illness for about five days.

 He had no idea it was dengue until health workers asked him to be tested. Then they urged him to avoid being exposed again, because there are four different strains, and people who have had one strain and later contract another can develop a dangerous form of the disease that can cause hemorrhaging and even death.

 Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a tropical medicine expert at George Washington University, said he thought the potential was “pretty high” for dengue to spread up the Gulf Coast, where another species of Aedes mosquito that can carry the virus is common. If the disease does get there, it will strike poor people hardest, he predicted, because many of them lack screens and air-conditioning. There is no vaccine.

 “I believe the threat is very real,” he said. “And we understand that the C.D.C. is about to close its dengue branch. Can you imagine anything so stupid? This is the worst time possible.”

 The disease centers confirmed that the 2011 budget does eliminate financing for the “vector-borne” disease branch, which tracks dengue, West Nile virus, plague, encephalitis and other illnesses carried by insects.

 Dr. Ali S. Khan, deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said that the disease centers had to make budget cuts, and that the vector-borne disease branch was one. But he said other money could be used to pay for some of the work it used to do.

 More than a dozen medical organizations have signed a letter to Congress, asking that the money be reinstated.

Meanwhile, as they are trying to ease public fears, officials in Key West are scrambling to stop the outbreak. The best way to fight the disease is to fight the mosquitoes, by wearing bug repellent, spraying pesticides and dumping anything that holds water. The amount it takes to fill a bottle cap is enough for Aedes aegypti to breed.

 Mosquito control inspectors have been dispatched to neighborhoods with suspected cases. Sometimes they have to deal with vacant houses because Key West, like many cities, is dotted with foreclosures. The inspectors have also told landscapers to stock ponds with minnows, which feed on mosquito larvae. The city even launched Mosquito TV, a weekly show, to mobilize residents against the pest.

 At the Key West Cemetery, where the gravestone of B. P. Roberts (who died in 1979) reads, “I told you I was sick,” dozens of “ovitraps” — black plastic cups laced with poison to kill female mosquitoes and their eggs — mingled among concrete urns and vases of water rife with squiggling larvae. Plans for next year include providing sterile male mosquitoes to prevent their mates from reproducing.

 Key West residents have been taking it all in stride. At a parade last October, a group calling itself Dengue Night Fever included a John Travolta look-alike and followers sporting giant mosquito wings.

 Tourists interviewed this week at the nightly sunset celebration on Mallory Square seemed oblivious. Linwood Dean, 31, and his family had been visiting from Pennsylvania for three days. Mr. Linwood had a fresh mosquito bite on his forearm.

 “We haven’t heard anything about it,” he said. “We are having a wonderful time.”

 Denise Grady reported from New York and Catharine Skipp from Key West, Fla.

 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lawrence Smart, from Miami-Dade Mosquito Control in Florida, looked for the larvae of mosquitoes, which carry dengue, in tires where water had collected.

 

Brevard mosquito battle comes with costs

A million acres — and arms — will get sprayed to fight the pests

An insect that weighs .00008 of an ounce and is less than an inch long costs the county an estimated $9 million a year to control. It also bugs the economy and tourism in other ways.

 Aircraft technician Michael Matthews inspects a helicopter before doing some aerial spraying for Brevard County’s Mosquito Control at its facility in Titusville. The county spends $9 million annually on the service, covering more than 1 million acres each for the ground and for the air. (Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY)

The humble yet annoying mosquito will re-enter the environment in all of its glory soon with the coming heat and rain. This will not only drive consumers to stores to seek relief with favored repellents and the latest gadgets, but may even have an effect on tourism in the county. It’s too early to tell how bad the mosquitoes will be just yet, according to Peter Taylor, operations manager of the Brevard County Mosquito Control District.

They are at their worst when there are lots of them, and much of the population growth of the insects depends on warmer weather — which we’re now getting in a major way. “The mosquito season changes from year to year,” he said.

 “Their activities are governed by temperature and humidity, and as the year goes into the summer, you start getting rain patterns; but (in the summer) they reproduce at faster rates, and they get out to get blood meals to get the nutrients so that they can reproduce. As it gets warmer, they actually go through their life cycling faster, and that’s the reason it picks up when it’s warmer.”

The types of mosquitoes in Brevard County are of the salt marsh variety, using wet soil to lay their eggs. The county will spray about 1.2 million ground acres this year, at a cost of about $2.63 per acre, and another 1.1 million aerial acres at $1.56 per acre. Derek Helms, owner of the Pest Control Depot in Palm Bay, said a rise in purchasing anti-mosquito supplies tends to come with the summer rains.

 Usually, April and May are drier, he said. “It depends on how heavy the rains are, and then people start coming in,” he said. Overall, he said, mosquito repellants play a relatively small role in his sales, because most people understand that they are just a natural part of the environment. When they do need items, they usually go for sprays containing DEET, which is not as expensive as the alternative — a fog machine to keep the critters away.

“Homeowners realize when they have to spend $250, $300 for a (fog) machine, they generally back down,” he said. “They work really well, but it’s usually not an investment most people are willing to make.”

Yard-wide sprays are sold around town and can work for several days, said Stacey Hewatt, floor manager at Ace Hardware at Pineda, but the most popular item last year was a clip-on, battery operated repellent from Off! The item, similar in size to a cell phone, is on sale for $7.99, and Hewatt figures they will be popular again this year. “I think people buy according to what they are doing,” she said. “If at a baseball field, they might buy the spray. We sell something you can do to your yard, spray your own yard down prior to a barbecue, and it works for a couple of days.” And the buggers even affect tourism.

 Integrated Mosquito Management and the University of Florida teamed up for one of the few official studies on how mosquitoes affect tourism in the state in 1998. The study showed that areas with a high population of mosquitoes tend to have fewer tourists. “It showed a relationship between the number of mosquitoes that were trapped and the tourist dollars that were taken in. And there’s definitely a relationship there,” said he county’s Taylor. “If it gets really bad, people are just not going to get out and enjoy and spend money.”

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