Mosquito season is here
It’s peak mosquito season in Texas and with the increase in rain officials say this summer there are more than usual in the area.
“The big issue is that it’s summer and it’s been a very wet summer so mosquitoes are going to be a big issue,” said Dr. Brent Shepherd of Faith Community Hospital. “All you need is heat and rain.”
As of Wednesday, there have been 53 reported cases of Zika virus in Texas according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Of those cases, 52 were in travelers who were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. One case involved a Dallas County resident who had sexual contact with someone who acquired the Zika infection while traveling abroad.
The closest case to Jack County is in Wise County.
“Nobody has gotten it from here with one exception,” Shepherd said. “But it can spread from a person to an Aedes mosquito which are common in Texas.”
As of June 21, DSHS reports there has been only one confirmed case of West Nile and it was in El Paso County.
“There hasn’t been a lot of mosquito borne illnesses this summer so far,” Shepherd said. “It’s been more of a luck issue than anything.”
For most people, Shepherd said Zika is not a problem. It takes up to 14 days after exposure for symptoms to manifest, if they do at all, and two to seven for the symptoms to subside which is typical for most viruses.
“The most common symptom is an itchy rash to the extremities and fever is the second most common problem,” Shepherd said. “Small joints of the hands and feet will swell up. It’s very rare for people to even have to be in the hospital for it. For non-pregnant people, your body just fights it like any other virus and you get rid of it. Then immunity from infection occurs.”
The real problem with Zika occurs in pregnant women.
“It causes severe birth defects, microcephaly, a very severe lifelong birth defect,” Shepherd said. “It affects intelligence, causes neurological disorders, seizure disorders.”
He said there is nothing close to being on the market yet for a vaccine but there’s no reason to be alarmed yet.
“If you haven’t been to an area of endemic, which Puerto Rico is the only US territory considered endemic now, or had sexual contact with someone who has Zika or has been somewhere within the last six months where Zika is endemic, there’s no reason to worry,” Shepherd said.
He advises to avoid mosquito bites, personal protection is very important including long sleeves, long pants and covering any exposed skin with repellent.
“DEET is still the best,” Shepherd said. “There are lots of other things out there that aren’t proven. So you take your chances with those.
“I’d go and find the highest percentage you can for adults. They have different levels for kids. With babies, you’re just supposed to spray it on their clothes, but not their skin or anything that will go in their mouths.”
Cortni Green, Jack County AgriLife Extension intern, said some essential oils can repel mosquitoes including citronella, lemon grass, eucalyptus and peppermint with citronella being the best.
She also recommends addressing the breeding sites including trash cans, shrubbery and foliage.
“If you treat those, mosquitoes aren’t as bad,” she said. “Also trim back vegetation, keep grass mowed and bushes and trees trimmed. They like any place that is cool and damp.”
Mosquito dunks can be used in standing water. The City of Jacksboro provides them for free at City Hall and Green said they are safe for livestock, birds or any animal.
“If there is any standing water you can’t personally control, you can call the city or county to have them sterilize it for mosquito larvae,” Shepherd said.