County starting campaign to rid area of biting insects

Mauricio Julian Cuellar, Alice Echo-News Journal

In an effort to combat the mosquito population this summer, county vector officials have begun land rate counts and mosquito surveillance on several areas within Jim Wells County. County Vector Director and Precinct 3 Commissioner Wally Alanis said that, all current testing has come back negative for the West Nile Virus. Last year, JWC was free of West Nile, but mosquitoes did test positive for the virus in nearby Nueces and San Patricio counties.

"We've conducted some surveillance in the area and are in the process of shipping samples to Austin for identification, but so far, we've received no reports of West Nile," Alanis said.

Because the immense downpour the county received last Friday, vector officials did place some Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis Dunks out as a precaution. The larvacide is shaped much like a donut, and has an effective radius of 100 square feet once in the water.

The county's main focus is to contain the problem of mosquitoes at the larvae stage by poisoning the insects before they take flight. County residents should be aware of areas where stagnant water collects. This includes non-flowing creek beds, large pools of water, and open containers situated around their yard. Even an old tire, set out in the back yard, can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes as water collects inside and stagnates. The putrid water is tempting to mosquitoes, and provides an ideal nursery in which to breed.

For residents who find areas of standing water on their property, their only choices are to remove the water or place an agent such as mineral oil in the water, which will create a film on the surface. This traps larvae already below the surface, and prevents future mosquito breeding in that area.

"The mosquito larvae are unable to come up past the oil to receive air, so they in turn suffocate," JWC Safety officer Israel Lopez said. Other home remedies include introducing goldfish into the pond, which will eat the mosquitoes, or of course frogs. Sitting water in places such as cemetery vases or birdbaths should be changed every 3 to 4 days, to prevent them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

"We're encouraging everyone to look in their yards, any area where rain water can collect. People can help themselves if they just take the time to inspect their yards and throw away standing water, or junk items that collect water," Alanis said.

Vector officials intend to host public awareness drives at the local Wal-Mart and HEB soon, to educate the public on the importance of mosquito awareness, and the potential dangers of West Nile. They also plan on meeting in other areas of the county, including a possible drive at Super S Foods in Orange Grove, to raise public awareness.

Mosquitoes have been known to carry various diseases such as Dengue and West Nile. Dengue is a viral disease that symptoms can include high fever, bad headaches, joint pains, and sometimes a rash. The West Nile virus affects the immune system in humans, with symptoms including a stiff neck, high fever or severe headache.

The four D's of mosquito protection

Lopez said there are four "D's" to consider when it comes to protecting yourself from mosquitoes:

Between DUSK and DAWN is when residents should avoid working outside, because that is when mosquitoes are most active. DEET or other mosquito repellent should be used when doing work or other activities outside. This especially holds true when children go outside to play. DRESS is also important. Wearing long sleeve shirts or pants outside can go a long way towards protecting your limbs from mosquito bites.