Staying safe from mosquitos as summer winds down

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2023

Submitted by the Lawrence County Health Department

As the end of summer gets closer and stretches into fall, insect and tick-borne diseases are showing up nationwide. 

Almost everybody has been bitten by a mosquito. Most of them can be annoying or inconvenient but some of them can spread viruses that can cause dangerous diseases leading to hospitalization or even death. Diseases spread to people by mosquitos include: Zika virus, Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya virus, and West Nile virus.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the West Nile virus is one of the most common viruses spread by mosquitos in the United States. The peak season starts in the summer and continues through the fall. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.

When a mosquito bites, it pierces the skin to take a tiny sip of blood. As the mosquito is feeding, it injects saliva into the skin. Most of the people have only a mild reaction to the bite, but others react with swelling, soreness, and redness in the area. 

A common reaction is the typical puffy and reddish bump that appears a few minutes after the bite, or a hard, itchy, reddish-brown bump, or multiple bumps appearing a day or so after the bite, some people may get small blisters, or even dark spots that look like bruises. 

But there are signs to watch in case it gets more serious. If the person starts feeling unusually tired, notices a rash, or develops a fever after being bitten, it would be a good idea to check in with a doctor.

There are no vaccines to prevent West Nile virus disease or medication to treat it. But fortunately, most infected people do not feel sick, and only 1 in 5 people develop a fever and other symptoms.

What should you do? Wash the area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itching. Use an over-the-counter anti-itch cream to help relieve itching if needed. Do not scratch the bites. They can become infected.

Make sure you get rid of any standing water around the home, like the water that collects in buckets or flowerpots, as these are breeding grounds for mosquitos. 

If you are hanging out in the backyard, consider using a fan; mosquitos aren’t strong flyers, and a nice breeze will keep them away.

The CDC recommends using a good insect repellent (like the ones containing at least 20 percent DEET), wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when outside, avoiding outdoor activities when mosquitos are most active, and draining standing water. 

Other recommendations are to install screens on doors and windows. Also, it’s good to know that certain birds, like crows and jays, are more likely to carry the virus.

As of Sept. 14, The Ohio Department of Health showed 1,266 West Nile virus positive mosquito samples from 41 Ohio counties, none of which were from Lawrence County. It is essential to monitor mosquito population to stop the spread of these diseases.

— This article was provided for The Tribune by Paola Litton MPH Candidate and Mohammad Abdulrahman, Epidemiology Department for Lawrence County Health Department. We encourage our readers to stay informed, prepared, and ever mindful of health and safety.