When it comes to mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, the hotter and more stagnant the water, the better the breeding grounds, Will County Health Department experts said Wednesday.
So while we're not seeing a lot of "nuisance" mosquitoes because of the lack of rain, we may end up with more of the type that pose a serious health risk, especially to the old and those wirh compromised immune systems, said Elizabeth Bilotta, the county's environmental health director.
"Conditions are ripe for them to breed," Bilotta said. "We don't know the volume, we have no way of monitoring that ... but it has to be hot and dry for these types of mosquitoes (to breed)."
It's still relatively early as far as the mosquito season goes, but health department traps have captured West Nile-carrying varieties in Bolingbrook and on the southeast side of Joliet, Bilotta said. Two birds have tested positive for West Nile, one in Joliet and the other in Plainfield.
There is no need for alarm, Bilotta said, but there is sense in taking precautions. For example, don't go out at night without wearing insect repellant containing DEET. Check around your property for such things as flower pot draining dishes or other items that might contain standing water. Don't let the baby pool sit out in the sun and start to get stagnant.
In Joliet, the city has hired Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management to treat areas such as manholes, catch basins and inlets that capture standing water. An organic, extended-release tablet, effective for up to 180 days, is used to eradicate mosquitos mosquitoes that breed in these areas.
West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that
has fed on an infected bird, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If bitten, most people will have no symptoms or will experience very mild symptoms -- fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands or a skin rash.
Fewer than 1 percent of infected people with West Nile develop severe
symptoms, such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation,
coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. People older than 50 or who are immunocompromised, such as transplant patients, have the highest risk of severe disease.
- Whenever outdoors between dusk and dawn, wear shoes and socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Loose fitting, light-colored clothing is best. Consider staying indoors at dusk and dawn, which is peak mosquito biting time.
- Apply insect repellant to exposed skin when outdoors. The most effective repellents contain DEET. Use caution when applying repellant to children. Products containing 10 percent or less DEET are the most appropriate for children from 2 to 12 years of age.
- Install tight-fitting window and door screens. Check for, and repair, any tears in residential screens, including porches and patios. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
- Reduce or eliminate the amount of standing water around your home. Remove old tires, tin cans, flower pots and buckets, and change the water in birdbaths at least once a week. Any container holding water for more than four days can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes.
- Keep gutters clear of debris.
- Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around your home.
- Eliminate yard ruts and puddles.
- Aerate ornamental ponds or stock with larvae eating fish.
- Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), available in hardware stores, in any standing water around your home.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs regularly.
For more information, check out the CDC's West Nile information Web site at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.