With warmer weather come mosquitoes
The recent arrival of warm, spring weather in south Alabama was greeted enthusiastically, heralding as it does each year another season filled with outdoor activities.
But the rising temperatures bring with them an ominous complement to those recreational opportunities -- swarms of recently awakened mosquitoes, at least some of which are carriers of the West Nile Virus.
As such, Escambia County residents are being urged to keep in mind precautionary measures designed to lessen the chances of being bitten by a virus-carrying mosquito.
"The best way to do it (prevent West Nile's spread) is through education and public awareness," said Ricky Elliott, with the Escambia County Health Department.
The department and other healthcare professionals urge residents to keep in mind some simple tips for avoiding mosquito bites. Among them: When outdoors, use insect repellents containing the ingredient DEET; Consider staying indoors around dusk and dawn, the times mosquitoes are most active. If outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants; and, most importantly, work to get rid of potential mosquito breeding sites.
Mosquitoes breed any place there is standing water, so emptying flower pots, buckets and other containers that hold water is important. The water in pet dishes and bird baths should also be changed regularly.
There are other things to keep in mind as the weather warms up. Cindy Lancaster, in the infection control department at D.W, McMillan Memorial Hospital, said that placing mosquito netting over strollers is a good way to protect infants from bites.
Along with the elderly, young children are at the most risk from West Nile.
Last year in Escambia County, there was one human death related to West Nile, and one human death related to Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), another mosquito-borne illness. There was also an EEE-related death in nearby Conecuh County.
There was one horse death from West Nile in Escambia, and three horse deaths from EEE. Ten crows and two blue jays tested positive for the virus.
Mild symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, body aches and a rash. Only about one in 150 infected with West Nile will develop more severe symptoms, which can include high fever, convulsions, paralysis and coma.