You may think of mosquitoes as being strictly hot weather pests, but these disease carrying insects can actually remain active until the temperature consistently stays lower than 60 degrees. The risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses can remain a significant threat well after the long, lazy days of summer, and it is vital to remain vigilant against these pests until they become inactive for the winter.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more people contract West Nile virus (WNV) – a potentially fatal mosquito-borne illness – in late summer than during any other time of the year, and transmission of the disease can also continue into the fall. Mosquitoes are known to transmit other diseases, including Chikungunya virus, a disease that causes joint pain and is most frequently brought in to the U.S. by travelers who were infected in countries where the disease is common.
“Preventing mosquito bites is vitally important in late summer and early fall, when mosquitoes are still very active,” says Dr. Jorge Parada, medical advisor for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). “People should never assume that the mosquitoes in their backyard or those they encounter on vacation are free of disease. It’s best to play it safe and take steps to prevent mosquito bites.”
The NPMA offers these tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne illness:
* Many mosquito species are most active between dusk and dawn, so try to avoid outdoor activity during those hours. It is important to note, however, that the mosquito species that transmits Chikungunya is active throughout the day.
* Use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus or IR3535 whenever you’ll be outdoors. Follow the directions on the product label and remember to apply the repellent over sunscreen and reapply every four to six hours.
* Protect arms and legs with long sleeves and long pants, and wear closed-toe shoes when outside.
* Eliminate areas where mosquitoes can breed, such as standing water in flower pots, tires, kiddie pools, puddles and low-lying areas of lawn where water collects. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as half an inch of water.
* Make sure window and door screens are in good repair in order to keep mosquitoes from easily getting into your house. Patch holes in screens.
* A mosquito infestation can be a serious health hazard. If you find yourself losing the battle against mosquitoes, it may be time to call in a professional for help.
Despite your best efforts, mosquito bites can still occur, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of common mosquito-borne illnesses. WNV is among the most common and most serious. Found in virtually every state, the virus causes flu-like symptoms such as swollen glands, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and eye and abdominal pain. “Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the disease, which can be fatal in severe cases,” Parada says. “It is possible to have West Nile virus for some time without experiencing any symptoms, and many people who contract the disease don’t ever realize they had it.”
The Chikungunya virus appeared relatively recently in the U.S., with the first known locally acquired cases being reported in Florida in July 2014. Although typically not fatal, the disease can be extremely painful. According to Parada, symptoms develop four to eight days after the mosquito bite, and include severe joint pain, especially in hands and feet, fever, headaches, muscle pain, rash and joint swelling. Symptoms usually go away after a week, but there is no treatment.