The Bearer of Bad News

May 09, 2017

As the weather continues to warm and spring blossoms into summer, insects unquestionably become part of the outdoor environment. The mosquito has been the “bearer” of bad news for the last several years. First with EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) then West Nile and now Zika, which has been in the news a great deal this past year. Fortunately for our district, we do not currently have the mosquito that carries Zika. Rest assured, QVHD works closely with the CT State Department of Public Health (DPH), the CT Agricultural Station as well as the towns to monitor mosquitoes and provide guidance to the community. For travelers, to areas where Zika is present, there is special guidance, especially for pregnant women or women seeking to become pregnant. Visit the CDC website for guidance.

Although we don’t have Zika at the present time, it is likely that West Nile will still be carried by mosquitoes in our district. So as a general precaution it is wise to practice good habits to avoid all mosquito bites. You can take actions to decrease exposure to mosquitoes.  These actions are simple to take, and have been shown (through scientific studies) to provide great protection.

#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.  To apply to the face, put it on hands first then rub on face, avoiding the eyes and mouth. Wash hands after to avoid ingestion of the product. Wash off when you return indoors.  The CT Department of Public Health has a fact sheet titled “A Guide to Using Insect Repellents Safely (February 2016) which is available at https://tinyurl.com/klc24x4  (District residents without internet access can call QVHD, 203 248-4528 for a copy.)

#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.

#3 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 made of Bti, Bacillus Thuringiensis subspecies israelensis.) This is a biological or a naturally occurring bacterium found in soil. It poses no risk to humans and is very effective against mosquito eggs (larvae) and is easy to use. You can find them in hardware stores. 

#4 Be sure your screens are in good repair. Mosquitoes are tiny and can slip in through holes or through poorly fitting doors and screens. You may also wish to consider mosquito netting when outdoors or on baby carriages.

            Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) without internet access can request an informational packed repellents or on Zika traveler advice. Call 203 248-4528. Visit the QVHD website, www.qvhd.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.