SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – -- In October 2015, the Midlands were hit by record breaking rains which flooded large amount of South Carolina, causing severe damage and leaving many homeless. Six months later, there are still areas of standing water and remnants of damage.
As a result of the standing water there has been an increase in the mosquito population in the local area which could bring some health risks.
There are more than 50 different species of mosquitoes found in South Carolina, although a majority of them have little impact upon daily lives.
While most mosquitoes prefer to feed on animals rather than humans, the mosquitoes that do feed on humans can not only cause skin irritation, but have the potential to transmit disease such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Malaria, and Zika.
While it is difficult to differentiate between mosquito species and even less likely to know if a mosquito is infected with a certain disease, the best prevention to infection is to avoid being bitten at all.
The two best ways to prevent mosquito bites are to control or reduce mosquito populations as much as possible and to avoid being bitten by any remaining adult mosquitoes.
Although mosquitoes can be controlled in an area, they will never be fully eliminated.
Mosquitoes have four life stages - eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Since the first three of the stages, eggs, larvae, pupae, are found in water, eliminating water sources that can breed mosquitoes eliminates the chances of mosquitoes biting, and thus disease transmission. Source reduction includes the following:
· Pick up and haul away all trash piles, broken down washing machines, junk cars, bottles and cans, and related items from around houses.
· Avoid having open water areas or containers around the house such as puddles, open water tanks, damaged water pipes, and tires that might enable mosquitoes to breed.
· Fill tree holes with mortar.
· Drill holes in the bottom of tire swings.
· Empty or change water in pet dishes, bird baths, horse troughs, etc. at least once a week.
· Keep roof gutters clean.
· Avoid accumulation of decaying material and garbage in and around the home.
· Cover water tanks.
· Support natural enemies of insects like birds, frogs, lizards, and fish.
· Fix any low spots in the yard that hold water for long-term control.
The best mosquito control programs consist of larviciding, killing adolescent mosquitoes, and adulticiding, killing the mature mosquitoes, before they are capable of causing biting nuisances and transmitting diseases to people, pets, and domestic animals.
When mosquitoes are in their immature stages, they are concentrated in a relatively small or fixed area. Larvacides kill mosquitoes before they start flying. It is best to larvicide only areas where standing water cannot be eliminated and in which larvae are actually found. The safest products are the ones that contain Methoprene. Once the standing water is treated, do not allow children to play in the water or drink the water. Also, keep pets from drinking the water.
One mechanism to prevent bites is from "physical" personal protection measure. Such measures that prevent mosquito bites include:
· Wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts.
· Use bed nets when sleeping outdoors.
· Use wire gauze screening in windows and doors to avoid invasion of flying insects.
· Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito biting times – the hours from dusk to dawn.
If you can't remove or avoid mosquitoes, the final safeguard is repellants.
One of the most effective mosquito repellants on the market is DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide or N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Be sure to read and follow instructions on the label to avoid excessive use and over-application.
· In most circumstances products with 25% - 35% DEET provide adequate protection for adults.
· The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 10% DEET for children under 2 years of age. Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child's clothing and on exposed skin.
· Do not allow children to apply DEET repellant themselves, and do not use more than 10% DEET on children under two years of age.
· Use just enough repellant to cover exposed skin or clothing.
· Do not spray DEET directly on the face. Spray repellant onto the hands and use them to apply it to the face, avoiding sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth and nasal membranes.
· Do not apply over cuts, wounds, irritated skin, or under clothing.
· Do not spray DEET repellants in enclosed areas.
· Upon returning indoors, wash any treated skin with soap and water.
· Wash any DEET- treated clothing before wearing them again.
For any questions contact the 20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health office at (803) 895-6193.