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Erie County Department of Health offers tips to prevent mosquito bites as humid, warm weather brings out bugs

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Mon, Aug 17th 2020 11:35 am

Sentinel surveillance in mosquito pools show mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile virus present in Erie County

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is reminding residents to stay vigilant in eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and preventing mosquito bites as the summer season ends.

Routine surveillance of mosquito pools in Erie County has identified West Nile virus (WNV) present in the mosquito population this month. This is consistent with testing in previous summers. WNV is a mosquito-borne illness that infected mosquitos transmit to humans through a bite. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection. Fortunately, the majority of individuals infected with WNV will not have any symptoms. Approximately one in five people who are infected will develop a mild fever with other flu-like symptoms. Fewer than 1% of infected people will develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness.

Recent cases of West Nile Virus in Erie County are relatively rare, with two reported cases in 2018, one in 2017, 12 in 2012 and three in 2011.

ECDOH recommends minimizing exposure to mosquitoes by limiting outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, covering as much skin as possible when outside, and using an effective insect repellant that contains 25%-30% DEET on exposed skin. These tactics also protect against other insect-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease carried by ticks.

“In a house or apartment, check screens and repair and holes or tears,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “Other barriers like nets for strollers and playpens, long sleeves and pants, socks and shoes, and hats are also good protective measures against mosquitoes.”

Other steps can be taken on lawns and property to reduce the mosquito population:

√ Eliminate local mosquito breeding sites – mosquitoes develop in standing water.

√ Do not leave standing water for longer than two days before dumping it out. Mosquito eggs can hatch in the amount of water left in a single bottle cap.

√ Change water in birdbaths and planter bases every two days.

√ Clean clogged gutters to allow rainfall to drain freely.

“Regular swimming pool maintenance and treatment can prevent mosquitoes from infesting an entire neighborhood,” said Senior Public Health Sanitarian Peter Tripi. “If you know of a swimming pool that is neglected, you can report that to Erie County’s Division of Environmental Health at 716-961-6800. Stagnant swimming pools with brown or green water are a public health threat.”

Though these recommendations are for all Erie County residents, those who work spend time on gardening, landscaping, construction and outdoor building maintenance, and farming should take special note of these precautions, ECDOH noted.

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