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The Shawnee News-Star
  • A gnawing problem: Mosquitoes swarm in

  • Julie Purin and her family bought a new patio set and a fire pit for the backyard of their Shawnee home this summer, but so far, mosquitoes are keeping them from enjoying them — or the outdoors — very often.
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    Julie Purin and her family bought a new patio set and a fire pit for the backyard of their Shawnee home this summer, but so far, mosquitoes are keeping them from enjoying them — or the outdoors — very often.
    “The mosquitoes are terrible in our area,” she said. “Less than 10 minutes and we are covered with 10-20 bites each.”
    As a result, ‘we don’t go outside much,” she added.
    Julie, her husband, Peter, and their two children, Ezra, 4, and Henry, 8 months, live near Park and Federal Streets in Shawnee. While this is their third summer living in that area, Julie said this year is by far the worst they’ve seen for mosquitoes, so much so that it’s keeping Ezra from playing outside.
    “My son's legs swell up from the bites,” she said, adding he’s either sensitive or allergic. And because of his young age, she said Henry stays indoors all the time and they’ve decided it is just better and safer for the entire family to stay indoors when mosquitoes are at their worst.
    In efforts to help cut down on the mosquito population, Julie said they keep their lawn mowed short and keep all brush cleared, all while ensuring there’s no standing water nearby. They often use Citronella tiki torches when they go outside, and yet they still have mosquitoes and still suffer bites despite using repellent sprays.
    “We try to spray…either we’re not getting all the right spots,” she said, or may sometimes forget when running outside for a short amount of time.
    For Julie, the mosquitoes do affect how often they go out and any decisions being made about trying to enjoy a meal outdoors.
    “It’s a catch-22 — we’re thankful for the rain,” Julie said, but with all the recent pockets of rain, the mosquitoes have thrived.
    “Where there’s puddles, you can see mosquitoes swarming around,” she added.
    James Bryce, director of operations for the city of Shawnee, said they have a list of areas where people have called in about problems. He said crews are spraying for mosquitoes in Shawnee every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as long as there’s no wind and it’s not raining.
    “We’re geared up and ready to go,” Bryce said.
    In addition to misting the air, Bryce said they are using larvacides in areas of standing water to prevent new mosquitoes as well.
    Page 2 of 3 - With all the rain and recent flooding, Bryce said, “mosquitoes are going rampant,” so he reminds area residents to keep their lawns cut short and to remove any areas of standing water.
    While residents can request their area to be on the list by calling 878-1529, those who have health conditions and would prefer not to have spraying in their areas also can contact city hall, he said.
    With the recent mosquito outbreak, many have been concerned about the diseases that mosquitoes can transmit.
    Julie, who said she has about a dozen mosquito bites now, said she is aware of the West Nile Virus, a mosquito-transmitted illness, after knowing a friend who contracted the virus while in college.
    “We’ve talked about West Nile…we don’t want to freak out about it — it's just about being aware,” Julie said.
    Pam Williams, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said to date, they have no reported cases of West Nile Virus in the state this year. But she still urges everyone take precautions.
    “Everyone needs to remain aware and vigilant,” she said, suggesting everyone use mosquito repellents that contain DEET.
    West Nile Virus is spread through the bite of the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and then transmits the virus when biting humans, horses, and some other mammals.
    Pottawatomie County Health Department officials said this time of year typically marks the beginning of the high-risk period for exposure to the virus in Oklahoma.
    “We want to remind everyone to use insect repellent when outdoors and mosquito-proof their home and yard,” said Pottawatomie County Health Department Administrative Director Tina Johnson.
    Oklahoma experienced a record year for West Nile activity in 2012 with 178 cases confirmed, resulting in 15 deaths, she reported.
    Persons of all ages can be affected, she said, and in 2012, those affected ranged in age from 1 to 93 years old.
    “Although we cannot predict the severity of this year’s WNV season, it’s important for everyone to know the highest-risk months in Oklahoma for WNV exposure occur from July through October,” said Johnson. “We urge everyone to start protecting themselves now against mosquito bites.”
    Precautions include:
    • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing, particularly between dusk and dawn when WNV-infected mosquitoes are more likely to bite. (Insect repellent with permethrin should be used on clothing only.)
    • Repair or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
    • Prevent items such as buckets, cans, pool covers, flowerpots, and tires from holding standing water so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed.
    Page 3 of 3 - • Empty any pet outdoor water bowls and refill daily.
    • Clean leaves and debris from rain gutters regularly to ensure they are not clogged.
    Symptoms of WNV include sudden onset of fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle weakness. Long-lasting complications can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness and tremors, and paralysis of a limb. If one or more of these symptoms develop, especially after suffering mosquito bites within the previous two weeks, she said a health care provider should be contacted. Persons over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV infection, and some of the neurological effects of WNV can be permanent or fatal, Johnson said.
     
     

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