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Trouble with mosquitoes

August 31, 2012
The Daily News

We've always known that mosquitoes are not our friends.

News from health officials lately only confirms the problems these annoying pests can cause.

Michigan health officials report an 87-year-old woman from Kent County is the fifth person to die from the West Nile virus in the state this year.

The announcement came a day after Michigan Department of Community Health Interim Chief Medical Executive Dean Sienko told reporters that Michigan is experiencing an "epidemic of West Nile virus activity."

Experts think a mild winter, early spring and hot summer have helped stimulate mosquito breeding and the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, officials with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan State University's Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health have confirmed Eastern Equine Encephalitis in an eight-week-old puppy in Van Buren County in lower Michigan.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people, horses, and poultry such as pheasants, emu, ostriches, quail, and ducks.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis infection and disease can occasionally occur in other mammals, such as this puppy, and in reptiles and amphibians.

"There have been other reported cases of EEE in dogs, but as far as we are aware, not in Michigan," said Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health Associate Director Dr. Thomas Mullaney. "Private veterinarians may want to consider EEE if there are neurological issues during an examination, especially if dogs have been living outside with no mosquito control on the premises."

Mosquito management is vital in the prevention of West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and heartworms in dogs and cats.

Eliminate standing water by properly discarding old tires, filling ruts and pot holes, and removing water from tarps, pool covers, and other items where it may collect.

Changing water in bowls, buckets, troughs, bird baths, and wading pools at least once each week, especially during the warmer weeks of late summer, are just a few simple steps to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

With all these problems, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development is providing residents with mosquito mitigation tips and reminding them to exercise care when applying insect repellents such as DEET, lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin.

Excessive use of insect repellents containing DEET can result in adverse health effects, particularly in children if not properly applied.

"The holiday weekend falls during the peak of mosquito season, so it is important that when spending time outside with friends and family, residents exercise caution when applying insect repellents," said Jamie Clover Adams, Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development Director.

"You should always follow the guidelines listed on the bottle, especially when applying repellents on children," Adams said in a statement.

Follow these tips to reduce mosquito bites and mosquito population levels:

- Consider using non-chemical means to prevent biting, such as screens, netting, long sleeves, closed shoes, and pants.

- Practice prevention by eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as standing water near the home.

- Consider using biological controls for small lakes and ponds you own, such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which is available at many stores.

When applying insect repellents on children, follow the guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health:

- Do not use repellents with DEET on infants less than two months old.

- Apply repellent on your hands and then rub it on the child.

- Avoid spraying children's eyes and mouths, and use the repellent sparingly around their ears.

- Never apply repellent to children's hands or their skin under clothing.

- Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves.

- Once a child is indoors or the repellent is no longer needed, wash the treated skin with soap and water.

- Keep repellents out of reach of children.

Additional precautions to keep in mind regarding applying repellents and eliminating possible breeding grounds for summer insects:

- Avoid mosquitoes during their prime feeding hours of dusk and dawn.

- Before applying repellent, read all label directions; not all repellents are intended to be applied to the skin. Repellents with low concentrations (10 percent or below) are effective and may be preferred in most situations.

- Start with a low-concentration product and re-apply if necessary.

- If applying repellents over a long period of time, alternate the repellent with one having another active ingredient.

- Do not use repellents on broken or irritated skin or apply to eyes and mouth.

- Avoid breathing sprays and do not use near food.

Reactions to repellents are rare, but exposure to excessive levels of DEET may cause headaches, restlessness, crying spells, mania, staggering, rapid breathing, convulsions, and possibly coma. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are also warning consumers to immediately stop using a repellent if they experience any of the above symptoms.

If the product is swallowed, consumers should immediately contact a poison control center or the hospital emergency room.

To determine if a repellent is registered for use in Michigan, visit



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