Armando Cordero, Doña Ana County’s Director of Facilities and Parks, is cautioning residents of Doña Ana County to be vigilant during mosquito season, and to take precautions to reduce the chance of contracting West Nile virus and other mosquito-born diseases.
Two West Nile deaths already have been confirmed in New Mexico, and one of them was in Doña Ana County. To date in 2007, Doña Ana County has eight confirmed cases of the disease.
Each summer in Doña Ana County, the proliferation of mosquitoes follows the spring and summer rains, and then lasts into the autumn season. It used to be that mosquito populations abated in winter, but heartier varieties of mosquitoes now are found in the region that survive through the winter months and continue to bite, Cordero said.
West Nile virus has been confirmed in Doña Ana County since 2003, and it is prudent for every member of the community to begin taking sustainable precautions to mitigate mosquito populations, Cordero said.
Cordero said most birds are carriers of the virus, but they are not affected by it and don’t become ill. Humans are susceptible to the virus, as are horses.
Doña Ana County is involved in a comprehensive testing program by which mosquitoes are trapped weekly from different sites around the county and sent to a laboratory for evaluation. This testing allows the county to identify areas where problems may occur and to prioritize treatment procedures accordingly.
The county owns and operates a small fleet of vector-control trucks that are equipped with spraying equipment. These trucks are regularly sent out in the predawn hours to places where mosquitoes are most likely to breed. Spraying, however, is only one component of a successful control program. Doña Ana County’s Vector Control division also can provide free mosquito-larva-eating fish to private a resident whose land is marshy or contains large bodies of standing water. These fish each consume five times their own weight in mosquito larva each day.
The spray and the fish, Cordero said, are the second-best tools available to government. The best tool is an informed and motivated population whose members will, individually, address problem areas on their properties. “Working together,” he said, “we can greatly reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses that affect wildlife, livestock and – most importantly – humans in Doña Ana County.”
Doña Ana County’s Vector Control unit has some helpful tips on how to mitigate these flying, biting, blood-sucking nuisances.
Mosquitoe larvae mature in standing water. Removing unnecessary standing water inhibits opportunities for mosquitoes to lay eggs near your home. Empty standing water from old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys and other concave objects that can hold water.
Periodically replacing containers with fresh water also can eliminate the full development of mosquito larvae. Circulate and treat water in swimming pools. Change water troughs every three days. Water in birdbaths, fountains, dog dishes, wading pools, rain barrels and potted plant trays should be replaced at least once a week. Yards, pastures, parks and fields that are over-irrigated create large-scale breeding sites for mosquitoes.
During mosquito season, stay indoors during the evening, when mosquitoes are most active. When ventilating your home, make sure windows and door screens are bug tight. Replacing outdoor lights with yellow lights will help repel bugs. If you are going to be outdoors, wear clothing that covers your torso, arms, legs and feet. Effective sprays also can be employed containing the chemical Deet. Other effective mosquito repellents include picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, both of which are considered to be good alternatives to Deet.
For more information, call the county’s Vector Control Division at (505) 526-8150. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request the Vector Control Office extension.
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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229.