Don't Let Your Guard Down

September 03, 2015

As we enter September and the end of summer looms, don’t think that the mosquitoes and ticks have called it “quits” for the season. In fact, both are still quite active and will be until the first sustained frost (3 days or more.) The health district has had numerous cases of Lyme disease reported this past summer. In addition, the threat of West Nile Virus (WNV) continues to exist, although there have been no human cases reported to date.

 As most people know, mosquitoes have been associated with the transmission of West Nile Virus. This virus infects and kills wild birds. It can also infect humans through the bite of a mosquito. While the number of cases of WNV in humans in CT has been low over the past several years, two thirds of the diagnosed cases have required hospitalization.

It is important that you continue to protect yourself against WNV and Lyme Disease until the weather turns cold and we have frost. There are simple actions to prevent becoming infected by WNV. These actions are simple to take, and have been demonstrated (through scientific studies) to provide great protection. WNV is 100% preventable.

#1. Use an insect repellent. Not only will this protect you from mosquito bites, but it will also decrease the chance of a tick bite. Caution should be used when applying repellents, especially on children. Read the directions for use on the product label. (They are there for a reason!) Apply to clothing rather than skin when possible.  Do not use any of them on damaged skin.  Do not apply to face area or hands.  Wash off when you return indoors. 

#2. Reduce mosquito populations from your yard. Since any water-holding container can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, you should eliminate sources around your home that collect water.  Mosquitos need very little water and very little time to breed. Breeding grounds can include something as small as the dish under a plant to larger collection sources, such as a birdbath, pool covers or clogged roof gutters.  Any standing source of un-aerated water (water without movement) can breed a lot of mosquitoes.  Actions you can take to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds include: Repair leaky pipes and outside dripping faucets; Change water in birdbaths frequently; Change water in pet’s dish and chicken coops daily;  Empty children’s pool daily; Clean clogged roof gutters; Fill in holes in trees with sand or mortar; Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish; and drain flower pot/plant dishes two times per week. For stagnant water that can’t be drained there are products you can buy that help reduce mosquito populations. They are called mosquito dunks and are available in most hardware stores. 

#3 In addition to using insect repellents to prevent tick bites, daily body checks and prompt tick removal are critical to preventing disease. You don’t have to be hiking in the woods to have a tick “hop on” your body.

            For more information on West Nile, visit www.cdc.gov/westnile. For information on ticks, visit  www.cdc.gov/ticks. Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) without internet access can request an informational packed on West Nile, repellents and Tick-borne illness by calling 203 248-4528 or request via email, dculligan@qvhd.org This column was authored by V. Deborah Culligan, MPH.