Mosquitoes pose new threat to area residents

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer officially ends Thursday, and it seems to be hanging on to the very end with temperatures in the 80s and 90s this week.

Some local health officials, however, wouldn't be disappointed to have an early freeze.

Not that they want crops or gardens to be ruined, but they are concerned about the human population of Southwest Nebraska.

Until a there's a hard freeze, a couple of mosquito-born viruses are a threat.

Seven human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, and while those are always of concern, a new threat has appeared.

Mosquitoes in Chase County have tested positive for the St. Louis encephalitis virus -- SLEV -- which has similar symptoms but is more likely to have serious consequences.

It starts with fever, headache, dizziness, nausea and malaise and intensifies over a period of several days to a week.

While some patients spontaneously recover after that, others develop signs of central nervous system infections including stiff neck, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, tremors and unsteadiness. Coma and death can develop in severe cases.

About 40 percent of children and young adults with SLEV develop only fever and headache or aseptic meningitis, but almost 90 percent of elderly persons with SLEV develop encephalitis.

There's no vaccine against SLEV, and the best way to avoid it is a DEET based repellent.

Standing water should be eliminated where possible, but if you can't do that, the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department can provide mosquito dunks that can be dropped into standing water to eliminate mosquito larvicide without harming birds, fish, wildlife or pets.

Until there's a cold snap, we need to do our part to combat mosquitoes, which can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.

* drain children's wading pools when not in use

* replace water in birdbaths every 3 to 4 days or use mosquito dunks

* drill a hole in tire swings or recycling containers so water can drain out

* check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out (roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season)

* remove discarded tires, and other items that could collect water

* clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds

* dispose of cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers

* turn over wheelbarrows

* aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish

* clean & chlorinate swimming pools not in use (watch for stagnant water on the pool cover)

More information is available at www.swhealth.ne.gov, by calling (308) 345-4223, at Facebook.com/swnphd or Twitter @swpublichealth.

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