In recognition of National Mosquito Control Awareness Week (June 20—June 26), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) offers these tips to help prevent bites from mosquitoes.
At least 61 different species of mosquitoes exist in South Carolina, but fortunately, not all of these bite people. Mosquito bites can not only cause itchy welts on the skin, but they can also cause serious health issues by spreading diseases. The most common diseases that could potentially be carried by mosquitoes in South Carolina include West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis virus, La Crosse encephalitis virus, Saint Louis encephalitis virus, and dog/cat heartworm.
“As warm weather arrives and people encounter more mosquitoes, protecting yourself from bites becomes more important,” said Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “DHEC’s surveillance program helps identify cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in our state. Most mosquitoes are just a nuisance; however, we detect West Nile virus in mosquitoes in our state every year.”
The American Mosquito Control Association recommends three “Ds” to keep mosquitoes away:
Drain: Empty out water containers at least once per week.
Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Defend: Properly apply an EPA-registered product that contains a repellent such as catnip oil, citronella/citronella oil, DEET, IR 3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, 2-undecanone, or permethrin-treated clothing. With all repellents, be sure to follow product label instructions.
Local governments also play a key role in protecting residents through mosquito control and cleanup efforts that eliminate mosquito breeding habitats. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in as little as a bottle cap of water. Get rid of standing water that can regularly accumulate in buckets, flowerpots, grill covers, tires, trashcan lids, outdoor toys, and other yard decorations or debris.
Pet and livestock owners should take steps to protect their animals. Last year, from June 24-December 4, DHEC detected eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus in 17 horses in 10 counties, 13 of which occurred in the summer. Vaccines can be effective in protecting horses against EEE and West Nile. Pet and livestock owners should consult with their veterinarian.
For more information on steps that individuals can take to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito-breeding grounds around their homes, visit www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. Use DHEC’s Mosquito-Borne Disease Viewer for the most current case counts of mosquito-borne disease in birds, mosquitoes, and veterinary animals.