Warmer Weather Means Return Of Summer Pests
As the weather gets warmer and wetter, attention turns to two summer public health threats in Iowa, mosquitoes and ticks.
Health officials say now is the time to plan the action steps you and your family will take this year to minimize your risk.
Although mosquitoes can carry several diseases, most of the attention has been placed on West Nile Virus (WNV). Over the last five years, over 250 Iowans have been diagnosed with WNV and 12 of those have died.
The easiest way to reduce your risk of West Nile and other mosquito-borne diseases is to reduce your mosquito exposure. "Wear mosquito repellent, but also think about long-sleeved shirts, and long pants with socks and shoes," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa State Epidemiologist. "While mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, you can be bitten anytime of the day or night."
Health officials also urge you to take steps around your home to reduce mosquito populations. Examples include draining standing water (tires, pails, replacing bird bath water regularly) to reduce mosquito eggs. It is also important to repair or install screens in windows or doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
State health and veterinary authorities are no longer asking Iowans to collect dead birds for West Nile testing. "Although we are no longer collecting dead birds, West Nile will be part of Iowa summers for many years to come, so Iowans should take mosquito precautions every year," said Dr. Quinlisk.
Ticks also bring with them the risk of disease, especially Lyme Disease. Ticks thrive in moist, shady environments such as prairies and wooded areas. Iowans walking in those areas should wear light-colored clothing (to make ticks more visible), long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots. They should also use an insect repellent containing DEET. After walking in a wooded or prairie area, check yourself and pets for ticks and remove them.
Tick populations can also be reduced near your home by reducing leaf, brush and wood piles near your home.