We are in the season of the year with longer days, a longer school break and more opportunities to engage in many outdoor activities. But we are not the only ones excited about the season.
One of the most dangerous insects on earth, mosquitoes, thrive during this time of the year, as the moist and warm environment favors them. Mosquitoes bite us because they need our blood. They need our blood because it provides them with nutrients, which they can use in making their eggs. However, what makes them dangerous is that after they take our blood, they can leave their saliva, which contains viruses or parasites that can cause deadly diseases, like West Nile virus, zika virus, or malaria. If we leave mosquitoes hanging around our surroundings, they can transmit these diseases to us, and make our summer holidays less enjoyable.
According to the CDC, there are currently no vaccines or specific medications to treat dengue, chikungunya, zika virus and West Nile virus. The zika virus, in addition to being spread by mosquitoes, can also be sexually transmitted, and it is known to cause microcephaly in infants. Presently, microcephaly has no cure. It is characterized by smaller head and brain than normal and can lead to hearing loss, speech delay, and intellectual disability. One of the most effective ways to prevent these viruses is through vector control.
So, what vector control methods can we use to get rid of these dangerous insects? We could spray insecticides that kill adult mosquitoes. However, this method is not as effective due to the need of perfect weather conditions. In addition to spraying insecticides (at the right time), we can eliminate areas where mosquitoes breed.
Mosquito eggs grow in these breeding areas and become adult mosquitoes that can transmit diseases. Good breeding areas for mosquitoes include dirty birdbaths, stagnant water in tires, clogged gutters and other waste materials that can hold water. These places are like havens for mosquitoes. The eggs need the water to develop into larvae and without it they can die.
Disposing of trash properly, clearing out water from tires after rainfall, and changing waters in birdbaths at regular intervals can help prevent mosquito eggs from developing into adult mosquitoes, and thus, prevent those deadly diseases.
As you get rid of the artificial breeding places around your homes, remember that mosquitoes also have natural habitats, like ponds, wooded swamps, and marshes. You have to do what you can to not get bitten. When outdoors, especially in the evenings, wear loose clothing, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants or wear mosquito repellants to help keep them away.
Another thing to know about mosquitoes is that they can fly within the range of a mile radius. Therefore, it is important that we keep our neighbors in mind, because if they do not get rid of those breeding places, we will still have mosquitoes flying around our homes.
It is our responsibility to educate one another on how dangerous mosquitoes can be and how we can get rid of things that harbor them in our environment. We must do what we can to ensure ourselves, families, and the community in general have a summer holiday that is free of vector-borne diseases.
Chukwunalu Chukwuma, Wabash College ‘21, is an intern with the Montgomery County Health Department.