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Mosquito bites pose risk of West Nile infection

Walking along the midway of the 174th Columbiana County Fair, you may have noticed a new tent. The Columbiana County Health District is there to help you learn more about the services of the health district, a resource for the health and well being of all residents it serves. There is still time for you to catch up with them as the fair winds down on Sunday.

The health district is focusing on mosquito season, from now until the first hard frost, advised Lori Barnes, environmental director for the health district. At greatest risk of illness from mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are young children and those over the age of 50, especially those with immune deficiencies.

The symptoms for West Nile Virus can be misdiagnosed as the flu: high fever, headache, body ache, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rash, according the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). A stiff neck also may be a symptom. But one out of 150 people will have serious symptoms that affect the central nervous system: encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.) Donald Heverly is an intern at the health district. He is working with the mosquito program and advised that there are 54 types of mosquitoes in the area. He is out there setting traps, checking them and adding new collection sites every day.

The health district received a grant of $18,860 from the Ohio EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to combat the mosquito problem. The health district traps the mosquitoes, counts and freezes them to ship them on ice to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) where they are tested for viruses, said Paula Cope, PHEP Program Director. The ODH posts weekly updates for mosquito-related illness at its website.

The EPA grant funding helps to provide “dunks” for people served by the health district. These donut-shaped “dunks” are placed in the water and are effective for up to 30 days.

There is no vaccine for West Nile Virus in humans. Just because there are no current cases reported doesn’t mean that West Nile Virus is not a concern. It is here. Standing water grows stagnant, a breeding area for mosquitoes, like in bird baths, old tires and containers, a hole in the ground where there used to be a tree, broken gutters on homes that don’t drain properly. These are things to look at and clean up regularly to eliminate areas that mosquitoes need to lay eggs.

You can also drill holes in tire swings so the water drains out. Change the water in pet dishes frequently and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with mosquito-eating fish. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, even those that are not being used. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used. Install and repair screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning, if you have it.

To control mosquito larvae in containers that are too large to empty, use approved products, available at many garden and home improvement stores. Follow the label directions.

To avoid mosquitoes, use EPA registered insect repellents on exposed skin. Wear light-colored clothing, long-sleeved shirts or jackets and long pants to protect against mosquito bites. Barnes said mosquitoes are attracted to darker clothing is also recommended. It is recommended that clothing be treated with permethrin or another EPA-registered insect repellent. Follow label directions.

If you are going to be outside during peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn) use insect repellent. If you are going to be traveling outside the country, learn about the insect-related viruses in the country to which you are traveling, Heverly advised.

Visit the health district’s booth at the county fair. The staff will have answers to your questions about West Nile Virus and how to prevent it, along with pamphlets from the agency and the ODH.

Heverly can be reached at the Columbiana County Health Department, 330-424-0272, extension 136, for more information. The Columbiana County Health Department is located at 7360 State Route 45, Lisbon. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, phone, 330-424-0272.

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