Which mosquitoes should we be concerned with?

Mosquitoes continue to be the foe of the summer with wet and stormy conditions continuing throughout the year. Because of increased wet conditions, an increase of mosquitoes in the area may be noticed.

Mosquitoes not only carry the fear of being bitten and having itchy, red bumps everywhere, they also carry the fear of having dangerous and sometimes deadly pathogens with them. But which ones do we actually need to be concerned about?

Dog Heartworm

Dog Heartworm is mainly transmitted in Oklahoma by the Asian Tiger Mosquito, a day-biting mosquito, meaning your dog is still likely to be infected during the day, not just at dawn or dusk.

Symptoms of Dog Heartworm may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen.

West Nile Virus

The Culex mosquito is the mosquito that primarily carries West Nile Virus. These mosquitoes bite in the early mornings and evenings, but using insect repellent containing DEET at these times cause help reduce your chances of acquiring West Nile virus.

Medical Veterinary Entomologist Bruce Noden said West Nile is “always a concern.”

“Most of the time we have West Nile, you just don’t know it,” Noden said. “Most of the summer the Culex Mosquitoes, which are involved in transmitting West Nile, feed on birds. They don’t care about you. It’s only when those birds leave town that those mosquitoes start looking for another body to feed on … We’ve had West Nile detected in mosquitoes here in years past and we haven’t had any cases.”

Zika Virus

The virus everyone was worried about in 2016-2017 has seemingly fallen off the Earth in recent years, yet nothing has really changed about the prevalence of Zika in America.

Noden said this is because of “herd immunity,” which is the resistance to the spread of contagious diseases within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease. Yet there is a chance Zika could cycle into to prevalence again like dengue or chikungunya “in the next 10 years or so,” said Noden.

“Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, the yellow fever mosquito, has actually been found in southern Oklahoma,” Noden said. “That (mosquito) is the main vector for Zika virus.”

What can we do to prevent mosquito infestations?

The City of Stillwater does not spray for mosquitoes in public areas, nor do they contract for this citing a number of factors that include lack of equipment, licensing and available staff but also environmental conditions such as frequent windy days, and the difficulty targeting specific species.

Noden said the best thing to do is make sure you have no standing water in your yard.

“Every summer you have standing water,” Noden said. “It doesn’t really matter what summer it is. You can have a dry summer, but people still water their lawns. So any time you’re going to have water that’s actually standing somewhere you’re going to have mosquito issues.”

Mosquitoes can fly between 200-300 meters every day, so emptying out standing water is not only protecting yourself, it’s also protecting others.

“By you emptying the containers in your backyard you’re actually protecting your whole neighborhood … If you’re getting rid of the mosquitoes in your own back yard you’re actually helping your neighbors and vice versa. So it’s not just looking out for yourself, look out for others. Protect your whole neighborhood, not just yourself.”

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