Watch for headache, fever, stiff neck, disorientation, or coma
■ By Gena Estrin / Contributed
Two mosquito species, the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes Aegypti) and Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes Albopictus,) have recently been found in Riverside County. They are capable of transmitting several viral diseases: Zika, West Nile, Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, and more. What can you do to protect you, your family, and neighbors?
Early detection and control of these disease carrying culprits is easy to do. In the case of the aforementioned mosquitos, they are both container breeding mosquitoes. They lay single eggs just above the waterline, and immature mosquitoes develop in small amounts of standing water.
Check around your home, businesses, and neighboring areas for water that collected in buckets, bird baths, plant saucers, tires, tin cans, outside toys, top of rain barrels, and any other place that collects water that does not evaporate with in 24hrs.
Keep your rain gutters free from leaves and debris. Ponds and kiddie pools can be breeding grounds as well. (A small tip, there are special mosquito eating fish you can put in your pond.) Especially drain and replace the water in dishes for your outside pets too! Draining any standing water you find and drain prevents breeding of any type of mosquitos.
Watch for symptoms
Some mosquito bites simply result in a bump and an itchy area. But be vigilant & watch for other symptoms that could be a more serious disease. People over age 50 are more likely to become very sick or die, from some strains of viruses. Immune-compromised people, such as those on cancer chemotherapy, or HIV – AIDS individuals are extremely susceptible to developing a disease from an infected mosquito.
Watch for possible symptoms to develop from three to 14 days after being bitten. For example, common symptoms of West Nile virus can be fever, headache, body aches, sometimes skin rashes or swollen lymph glands. Symptoms may last a few days, but sometimes there can be a very long periods of fatigue and muscle weakness.
More serious symptoms can be headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, loss of vision, convulsions, numbness, and paralysis. They can last for several weeks and could cause permanent nervous system damage. Definitely get medical attention if you have these more serious symptoms.
No vaccine, no treatment
There is no specific treatment nor vaccine for West Nile virus. Prevention of mosquito breeding and protecting yourself from being bitten are your best defense. Remember the three “Ds”: 1) DEET or Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus bug repellent should be properly applied on you (read directions on repellent) before going outside. 2) Door and window screens should be repaired or replaced to keep these pests out of your home or business. 3) Drain any standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, as mentioned above.
You could maybe even update the three “Ds” to four “Ds.” According to an article by Sarah Zielinski published on smithsonianmag.com on Dec. 20, 2010, a modern old-wives tale may be true. Putting a softener dryer sheet in your pocket will keep away the mosquitoes and gnats.
My brother-in-law, an avid fisherman who has traveled North America in search of great fishing holes, lakes and rivers, wipes the dryer sheet all over his exposed skin, instead of spraying DEET directly on his skin. He does, however, spray his clothes with DEET the night before so it can dry by the time he puts his fishing clothes on. He swears this combination of repellant has kept him almost mosquito bite-free.
Magic dryer sheets
Zielinski’s article expounds the details of an experiment trying to determine if dryer sheets do, in fact, repel certain flying insects. “Scientists, who published their findings that month in the journal HortScience, set up a simple experiment consisting of a large plastic container connected to two smaller plastic containers, one of which had a piece of a dryer sheet.
Fungus gnats were placed in the center container and then the scientists checked where they were two days later. Each time they repeated the experiment, they found that the gnats tended to hang out in the two dryer-sheet-free containers.”
The article continues: “In the second part of their experiment, they analyzed the chemical content of the dryer sheets with gas chromatography and found two substances that might be keeping away the gnats. The first was linalool, which is naturally found in lavender and basil and which cosmetic and perfume companies use in their products for its flower-like odor.
Linalool is toxic to some types of insects, though it isn’t known to have any repellent qualities. The second compound was beta-citronellol, which is found in citronella and repels mosquitoes.” (At the time of Sarah Zielinski’s article, the scientists had not yet used the same plastic container experiment on mosquitoes instead of gnats. Read more: https://preview.tinyurl.com/y9tkbpef
Catch flu from people
You may have recognized the symptoms of mosquito borne viruses, discussed above, as they are also “flu” symptoms. Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious viral disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May. The flu is NOT transmitted by mosquitoes.
The symptoms of the flu, however, mimic those of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. The information in this article about Influenza was gleaned from my Kaiser Foundation Health Plan’s website, kp.org/flu, and my recent postcard reminder, to get the current flu vaccine, from Kaiser.
As my reminder postcard says, “ … Knowing the facts about the flu and the flu shot can help save your life: Everyone is at risk from the flu, … The flu shot can lessen the effects of the flu, … You need to get this year’s flu shot, … Please don’t wait to get your flu shot. …”
Flu is caused by influenza viruses and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Anyone can get the flu. Flu strikes suddenly and can last several days. Symptoms vary by age, but can include: fever/chills; sore throat; muscle aches; fatigue; cough; headache; runny or stuffy nose. Flu can also lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and cause diarrhea and seizures in children. If you have a medical condition, such as heart or lung disease, flu can make it worse.
Young and old
Flu is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk. Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
Every year new vaccines must be developed by the National Center for Disease Control, to fight new and mutated influenza viruses. That is why every year around this time of year, almost everyone is encouraged to get a “flu” vaccination. Many insurance plans, like Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, offer their members free annual flu shots, as part of their wellness programs. Other places, pharmacies and walk-in health clinics, offer flu shots for a minimal cost.
If someone’s efforts to prevent either mosquito transmitted viral diseases, or the common Influenza viruses, might develop an illness within 2 weeks of exposure. Whether someone was exposed to the flu viruses or bitten by a mosquito, spreading other disease viruses, treat their symptoms to minimize their impact, but monitor the symptom carefully. If symptoms linger too long, or progressively get worse, seek medical attention.
If you need help getting rid of a mosquito breeding source, or someone you know has been bitten and diagnosed with a serious virus and becomes very ill, please notify the California Department of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Vector-Borne Disease Section, (916) 552-9730; or Riverside County Department of Environmental Health – Vector Control, toll free (888) 722- 4234, or (951) 766-9454; www.rivcoeh.org.