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An Ounce of Prevention: The Last to Call It Quits

As the end of summer approaches, mosquitoes and ticks are the last to call 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 tick-related illness reported this summer.  In addition, the threat of West Nile (WN) continues to exist as some mosquitoes in CT have tested positive for WN.  Zika virus has also been in the news, but at this time, does not appear to be an issue for CT.

It is important that you continue to protect yourself against insect bites until a sustained frost of 3 days or greater occurs.  There are simple actions to prevent mosquito bites.  These actions are simple to take, and have been demonstrated (through scientific studies) to provide great protection.  For example, 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. Wear protective clothing when possible (long sleeves, long pants).  Use netting if sleeping outdoors or in areas without screens.  (Don’t forget baby carriages.)

#3. 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.

#4. 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.

#5. If you intend to travel, visit www.cdc.gov/travel website, put in your destination, and check out the warnings for Zika-endemic areas.  Follow the advice for preventing mosquito bites.  You might not feel ill if you contract the disease, but you can bring it back to your sexual partners so use protection if you have traveled to an endemic area, especially with women of child-bearing age.

For more information on mosquitoes and ticks, visit www.ctdph.gov , www.ct.gov/dep , or www.cdc.gov.  Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) without internet access can request an informational packed on mosquitoes, repellents and Tick-borne illness by calling 203 248-4528.

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