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Public Health Column for the Times-News

Public health: Reducing mosquito populations

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

By BEVERLY LEVINSON
Health Department columnist

I used to love being outside! Admiring my garden, weeding and trimming, sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade and reading. … Did you notice that I said "used" to love it? I loved it before the mosquitoes moved into my neighborhood.

When I first noticed the insects in the middle of the day, I was confused. These couldn't possibly be mosquitoes, right? They only come out at dawn or dusk. Then I learned that there are things called tree hole mosquitoes, who can reproduce in very small amounts of water! Those little skeeters fly around any time during the day!

I dislike mosquitoes because they bite me and make me itch. Worse than that, though, mosquitoes can cause serious illnesses like LaCrosse encephalitis, West Nile virus and Zika virus.

Here's a little mosquito trivia for your next backyard barbecue:

  • Not all mosquitoes bite. Only females bite, using the protein from the blood they take to feed their eggs.
  • Mosquitoes find their victims from exhaled carbon dioxide and the odors, heat and movement of our bodies.
  • Diseases can be passed from mosquitoes in different ways. Most occur when a mosquito picks up the disease from another animal or bird, then bites a human and passes the disease to us.
  • Birds, bats, dragonflies and frogs enjoy eating mosquitoes.
  • Community spraying with insecticides will temporarily reduce mosquitoes. Once the spray dries, it is no longer effective.

The most effective way to prevent mosquitoes from biting and transmitting disease is by getting rid of the places where they breed! I'd like to propose a spring cleaning war on mosquito breeding sites.

If everyone pitches in and does their part, my little neighborhood, our community and the entire county can have fewer mosquitoes to bite anyone — or cause illness. It's pretty simple, really.

1. Tip and toss — after every rain

  • Tip out water in flowerpots, planters, children's toys, wading pools and buckets.
  • If it holds water and you don't need it, toss it out (old tires, bottles, cans).
  • Look for small bodies of water, such as drainage ponds, tree stumps and tire ruts.
  • Clean out gutters, remove piles of leaves and keep vegetation cut low to prevent landing sites for adult mosquitoes.

2. Reduce exposure

  • Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET on exposed skin and/or wear clothing treated to repel mosquitoes. Do not use DEET underneath clothes.

3. Replace or repair holes in screens on windows and doors.

Will you join me to make our community mosquitoes free?

Beverly Levinson is the health promotion coordinator for the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at blevinson@hendersoncountync.org.

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Department of Public Health • 1200 Spartanburg Highway, Suite 100 • Hendersonville, NC 28792 • (828) 692-4223