Monday, June 16, 2014

Don't Let Mosquitoes Ruin Your Summer

One of our county services that gives us our tax dollars' worth is the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD). If you visit their website, you'll find that they offer free flu shot clinics, rabies clinics (one coming up at the end of this month), and shingles vaccines for those over 60. There's also info on things like hepatitis and the MERS virus. They also post info about upcoming events and health alerts on their Facebook page.

Last week, they issued a notice about mosquito-borne illness. We've probably all heard about West Nile Virus, but this year, a new mosquito illness has come to the US called Chikungunya. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, sensitivity to light, and rash, vomiting and severe joint pain. It's not fatal, but nasty nonetheless, and so far, there's no vaccine. No cases in PA yet, but 6 other states, mostly to the south, have reported it. Still, Rhode Island had 2 cases last month, and it's hit Indiana.

MCHD listed these tips for protecting yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

1. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing.  Mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors, especially blue. (Light colors are also good for discouraging ticks.)

2. Use insect repellent. Follow the label for application. Consult a doctor with questions or concerns.

3. Mosquitoes need stagnant water for their eggs to develop, so dump out bird baths, kiddie pools, and anything else that holds water every three days. Mosquitoes can go through their life cycle in as little as five days when conditions are optimal. Eliminating standing water stops mosquitoes dead in their tracks.

4. Drill several holes in the bottom of recycling containers so water can drain from them. Trash containers should be covered so no rain can accumulate in them.

5. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and rooftops are free of standing water. Clogged gutters will breed mosquitoes.

6. Aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.

7. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers. A swimming pool left unmaintained for even a week can breed thousands of mosquitoes.

8. For areas that cannot be managed with the above methods, there’s always larvicide. Many of the big box stores, home improvement centers, landscaping outlets, and even some pet stores carry consumer products that can be safely used to kill mosquito larvae. Again, read and apply according to the label.

9. Educate your neighbors. If you notice that they may have some stagnant water on their property, respectfully discuss it with them. They may be unaware of the mosquito hatchery in their own backyard.

10. If all else fails, contact the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) and register a complaint.  Property owners are responsible for maintaining their property in a condition that does not breed mosquitoes. The same is true for publicly-owned property, so don’t forget about parks, schools, and ball fields. All complaints received will be addressed. To register a complaint, call 610-278-5117 or email

MCHD will be setting traps and running tests on mosquitoes. They'll be applying larvicides to publicly-owned mosquito breeding areas and performing adult treatments in areas where West Nile-positive mosquito populations need to be controlled. If all else fails, they've done aerial spraying in the past (usually mid- to end of summer--and they give notice when they'll be doing it), though I've noticed that Norristown is usually last of the areas to be treated.

As for West Nile, if you see dead birds or squirrels that don't have evidence of trauma, DON'T touch them. Use a shovel or the like to put them in the trash. If you see more than one dead animal or bird like this in your neighborhood in a week, don't dispose of the second one, but leave it and contact the MCHD to see if they want to do testing.

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