County sprays to stop mosquitoes

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2000

Health officials have found two disease-carrying mosquitoes in an Athalia tire pile, prompting the county health department to spray to stop the insects.

Friday, August 04, 2000

Health officials have found two disease-carrying mosquitoes in an Athalia tire pile, prompting the county health department to spray to stop the insects.

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With summer comes mosquitoes, and precautionary measures are needed to prevent the possibility of any outbreak of a serious illness, said Georgia Dillon, Lawrence County Health Department administrator.

The health department is taking action because the two types of mosquitoes found in Athalia and several other areas of the county have the potential to carry a virus known as La Cross encephalitis, Ms. Dillon said. She added that there have been no reported cases of the illness.

The Lawrence County Commission agreed Thursday to fund spraying at Athalia.

The Ohio Department of Health Lab recently identified the mosquitoes – Eastern tree hole mosquito and the Asian Tiger mosquito, Ms. Dillon said.

Both breed around tire piles in the pools of water that collect inside tires, she said.

"Both of these mosquitoes have the ability to carry the La Cross encephalitis," Ms. Dillon said. "We are planning to spray targeted areas in the county for these mosquitoes."

The mosquitoes are commonly known to carry the virus and pass it from one generation to the next within the mosquito family, she said.

"These two mosquitoes contract this virus by biting a member of the squirrel or chipmunk family," she said. "Humans cannot get it from the animals, instead they have to be bitten by the mosquito. The female mosquito can pass the virus through her eggs to unborn mosquitoes who are then born with the virus. That’s how the cycle continues."

La Cross encephalitis initially presents as a non-specific summertime illness with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and lethargy, according to a health department news release.

According to the release, severe disease occurs most commonly in children under the age of 16 and is characterized by seizures, coma, paralysis and a variety of neurological aftereffects pending recovery.

Ms. Dillon said specific laboratory testing must be ordered to identify a case of encephalitis of the mosquito-borne type.

"There is no specific treatment of this virus," she said. "Death from La Cross encephalitis occurs in less than 1 percent. Ohio has more reported cases of La Cross than any other state, however, we absolutely do not have any cases of the virus in our county. In 1999, there were only 15 cases that were reported throughout the entire state."

She said mosquitoes are only capable of traveling about an eighth of a mile from their breeding site.

"The Eastern tree hole mosquito and the Asian Tiger mosquito have been here for years, so they are nothing new," she said. "They are very limited on their flight range so it’s unlikely that they could invade the entire county. They only breed around tree holes and any container that is capable of holding water."

The health department’s objective in generating public awareness of the mosquitoes is to prevent any possible illness to children, she said.

"We are not trying to scare people, we’re just asking them to clean up their yards," Ms. Dillon said. "We are trying to prevent this virus before it has a chance to start. If a person has old buckets, tire piles, or any other container that can fill with water, they should remove it from their property. If they can, they should fill any holes that may be in trees surrounding their house. Parents can also protect their child by applying mosquito repellent containing no more than 10 percent DEET when they play outside."