(Salt Lake City, UT) – If you’re planning to enjoy the great outdoors over the 4th of July holiday and the rest of summer, make plans to protect you and your family from mosquito bites. Dallin Peterson, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) offers these tips:
- Prevent mosquito bites by wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs and use an insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET, which is safe to use during pregnancy.
- Find and remove any puddles of water or standing water around your home or property to reduce mosquito breeding sites, including in pet dishes, flower pots, wading pools, buckets, tarps, and tires.
- Wipe out your birdbath every few days to keep mosquito eggs from sticking to the bottom.
- Maintain your swimming pool to prevent mosquito breeding.
- Report bodies of stagnant water to your local Mosquito Abatement District (MAD). Visit http://www.umaa.org/ for a list of MADs.
- Keep doors, windows, and screens in good condition and make sure they fit tightly.
- Consult with an immunization travel clinic before traveling to areas that may have mosquito-borne illness such as Zika or dengue and take the necessary precautions.
Even though there haven’t been any reports of positive WNV mosquito pools or human cases in Utah to date, the unusually wet spring means that will definitely change. Ary Faraji, Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District Manager says, “In years like this where we have a lot of standing water, we get new habitats that are going to form that we may not have been aware of previously.” In other words, a wet spring likely means more mosquitoes in the summer.
Peterson adds the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus aren’t currently found in Utah but still warns, “Since there is no human vaccine for these diseases, taking simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites are key to reducing your risk for infection.” A West Nile virus vaccine is available for horses and officials recommend all horses be vaccinated against the disease.
While West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, not all mosquitoes carry the virus. The mosquitoes that carry the virus are typically out from dusk to dawn. However, the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus tend to bite mostly during the daytime and are also the same type of mosquitoes that carry dengue and chikungunya. So, it is especially important to use insect repellent and cover your arms and legs when you are traveling to areas with these diseases.
“The best way to reduce your risk for any illness carried by mosquitoes is to use an insect repellent with DEET when you’re outside,” says Peterson. “Adults and children older than two months of age can safely use repellents that contain up to 30% DEET,” Peterson added. Repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months of age.
Mosquito surveillance in Utah is underway and will continue into the fall. For more information, call your local health department or visit www.health.utah.gov/wnv. The UDOH website will be updated each Wednesday through October with available detection information.