Wet weather cozy for mosquitoes

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- The record-breaking number of consecutive days of rain in June has caused a mosquito infested July.
   "Mosquito populations have increased and tripled or even quadrupled in some areas of Oklahoma," said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Joy, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Community Health, 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron.
   Flooding and standing rain water has made conditions prime for mosquito reproduction. Only female mosquitoes bite since they need protein from blood for their eggs to develop. Mosquitoes, however, do not feed on blood, but eat things like flower nectar or decaying matter.
   It is important to reduce the amount of standing water around the area including filling ditches with dirt and cleaning up rubbish piles, used tires or anything that may collect water, Sgt. Joy said.
   "Mosquitoes just need a puddle of water to lay eggs," he said.
   One mosquito can lay up to 250 eggs at one time and may average more than 1,000 offspring in her short life span of three to 100 days. It takes less than one week for an egg to develop into an adult mosquito, allowing an infestation to occur quickly.
   There is no hiding from a mosquito. They identify a host by the change of carbon dioxide, a gas that mammals emit, in the air.
   Base public health technicians said they have received many complaints from people in shop areas, child development centers and base housing at Tinker.
   Pest management technician Leslie Brown recently sprayed the senior officer housing area with a pesticide to reduce the mosquito population and kill the larvae. He said parents must be vigilante about ridding the area of anything that can hold water, including toys.
   "Kids toys will set in the backyard for two or three weeks while it's raining and muddy and mosquitoes will lay their eggs in them," Mr. Brown said.
   Besides being a nuisance, mosquitoes can carry deadly diseases. The West Nile Virus has been confirmed in all 77 counties of Oklahoma.
   "We've quit collecting birds because we know it's here," said Sgt. Joy.
   In the last five years, 201 confirmed cases of the human disease have been reported in Oklahoma, 48 in 2006 alone, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Twelve Oklahomans have died from the virus.
   West Nile Virus "season" runs from May to November and higher rates of disease have occurred in the northwestern and north central regions of Oklahoma.
   Symptoms of the virus can range from flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue and body aches to severe symptoms such as convulsions and a coma.
   No human cases of the virus have been reported this year in Oklahoma, according to the Center for Disease Control.
   The best protection against mosquitoes is preventing pools of stagnant water. However, insect repellents will keep mosquitoes away, but not kill them.
   As the sun comes out and the days get hotter, Sgt. Joy warns that the mosquito season is far from over.
   "Mosquitoes last longer in dry conditions," he said.