Mosquitoes worse this year
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER Managing editor
The blood suckers are back this year and, according to health department officials, it's going to be a bad mosquito season, yet another side effect of Hurricane Ivan.
Blown-over trees and holes are accumulating standing water, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
In Baldwin County, the health department has begun its mosquito surveillance program in which sentinel chickens are kept separate from other chickens in a closed-off area located in various locations throughout Baldwin County.
State health department officials announced earlier this week that the Baldwin County Health Department detected Wednesday that four sentinel chickens tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and one tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) while they were being housed outside at the Baldwin County Animal Control Center.
Elliott said that during the surveillance period, they pull blood samples from the chickens and test for EEE and WNV. The initial tests done on each bird determines whether they have been exposed to mosquito-borne viruses. The surveillance program allows health officials to detect when virus activity has made an appearance in an area.
The program was established in 2003 in Baldwin County. In Escambia County, Ala., the surveillance system was available several years ago, Elliott said, but now the county is using neighboring Baldwin County's datat to inform residents that "mosquito activity has begun to pick up."
One of the best ways to deter mosquitoes is to use mosquito larvicide briquets, which are available free of charge at both Escambia County Health Department locations in Atmore and Brewton.
The briquets are placed in standing water and can kill mosquito larva for up to 30 wet days, Elliott said.
This year, he said, the department hasn't given away nearly as many briquets as last year - maybe 50 or more. While Elliott said he's not sure why they haven't been giving out as many, he said maybe it's because around this time of year people always hear about WNV and EEE. However, these diseases are serious and are out there, and can be potentially harmful to humans.
High mosquito activity lasts until October and local municipalities and county officials have already begun to spray for mosquitoes. The cities of Brewton and East Brewton have a separate spraying area from the county residents.
In Brewton, residents should contact Danny Howard at 867-5210 to get their area sprayed. In East Brewton, the city has a routine schedule for spraying for mosquitoes. City Clerk Karen Singleton said that spraying occurs once a week with the truck hitting each side of the town.
According to County Administrator Tony Sanks, spraying in the county has been in effect for several weeks now and will remain operational until late October. The county does not spray private property or areas off the right-of-way of county or state roads. To schedule for mosquito spraying call B.J. Freeman at 867-0208.
Elliott reminds residents to remember the five D's: Dusk, Dawn, Dress, DEET and Drain.
Since mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, health officials advise people to wear loose fitting, light colored clothes and when possible, wear long sleeves and long pants. Try to avoid strong aromatic fragrances sprayed on the body.
For personal protection use insect repellent, such as DEET, on arms, legs and other exposed areas. While citronella candles can repel mosquitoes, the range is limited. Mosquito activity peaks at dusk and dawn, so limit outside activity during those times. Empty all standing water, replenish pet water dishes and rinse birdbaths often. Tree holes caused by downed trees can be filled with dirt or sand.