Pest patrol: Recent mosquito infestation inspires preventative measures

Grace Lieberman

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By Grace Lieberman / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

With a recent mosquito outbreak in Maricopa, Pinal County officials are warning residents to take precautions to avoid bites.

Mosquitos are as synonymous with Arizona summers as scorching heat, but with some simple measures, you can keep them away from your yard and off your skin. Here’s 5 tips to prevent mosquitoes from sticking around, and what to do to treat a bite.

1. Eliminate standing water.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. So make sure to frequently change the water in any outdoor dog bowls, birdbaths, flower vases or planters. Keep swimming pools operational, and if you must put it out of use, make sure to drain the water, keep it chlorinated, or run the filter every day.

2. Fortify your home.

In order to keep as many mosquitoes out of your home as possible, cover all gaps in walls, doors, and windows to prepare for the season. Also double check to make sure all your window and door screens are sealed and in good condition, and completely cover baby carriers and beds with netting.

The EPA also recommends replacing your outdoor lights with yellow "bug" lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary ones.

3. Dress for the occasion.

The best way to keep a mosquito away from your skin is to make it so the bug can’t find it. Wear long-sleeved shirts, ong pants, and socks. Tuck your clothes in to cover gaps where mosquitoes might get in as well. In high mosquito areas, head nets are recommended as well.

Although covering up is highly effective, in Arizona temperatures, it’s not always comfortable, so if you don’t want to bear the heat, refer to step four.

4. Use mosquito repellent.

Mosquito repellent is a must in Arizona outdoor activities, but choosing the right one isn’t always clear. The EPA offers a search tool of its registered bug repellents for you to find the right product for you. Always follow label directions and precautions closely.

5. Treat the bites you get.

If you’ve done all you can and still get bitten, the CDC has a few recommended steps for you to take to treat the bump.

First, wash the area with soap and water, then apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce itching and swelling. Next, apply a mixture of baking soda and water for 10 minutes before washing it off to reduce itching. You can also use an over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to help relieve itching.

Bites are usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience, but they do carry the risk of mosquito-borne disease. West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S.

There are no vaccines or treatments for West Nile Virus, but most people do not have symptomatic cases. Only about one in five infected people develop a fever or other symptoms, and about one in 150 develop a serious case. Chris Reimus, assistant director of Public Health and Environmental Health Services in Pinal County, said if you think you have symptoms of West Nile Virus you should consult with your health care provider.

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Grace Lieberman is a business, science and technology reporter based in Phoenix, AZ

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