With summer brings outdoor activities and water fun –– but also pesky mosquitoes and potentially serious problems. Just one of those problems just made an appearance –– West Nile virus –– as the state has just encountered its first 2016 case with the disease.

Note: An in-depth look at the summer onslaught of mosquitoes –– and their bites –– and how to lower the risk, watch for symptoms, and avoid potentially serious consequences of West Nile virus (WNV) disease.

With summer brings outdoor activities and water fun –– but also pesky mosquitoes and potentially serious problems.

Just one of those problems just made an appearance –– West Nile virus –– as the state has just encountered its first 2016 case with the disease.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), WNV has been confirmed in a Pittsburg County resident. In addition, collections of mosquitoes which tested positive for WNV have been previously reported by public health officials at the Tulsa and Oklahoma City-County Health Departments.

OSDH encourages residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of contracting WNV, a mosquito-borne illness. WNV is spread through the bite of the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and transmits the virus when biting humans, horses and some other mammals. This type of mosquito increases in numbers during mid to late summer when the temperatures climb and the weather pattern is dry, OSDH reports.

Summertime typically marks the beginning of the WNV season in Oklahoma, with outdoor activities providing opportunities for encountering infected mosquitoes. Although the severity of this year’s WNV season cannot be predicted, it is important to know the months with highest risk in Oklahoma occur from July through October. During 2015, there were 89 cases of WNV and 10 people died from the illness.

Symptoms of WNV vary widely depending on a person’s risk for more severe disease that involves the central nervous system. Some may experience sudden onset of fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle weakness and recover within one to three weeks while others develop life-threatening meningitis or encephalitis causing confusion, stupor, paralysis or a coma. Long-lasting complications of WNV disease can include difficulty concentrating, migraine headaches, extreme muscle weakness, tremors and paralysis of a limb. Those over the age of 50, diabetics, or those suffering from uncontrolled hypertension are at greater risk of developing severe neurologic disease from WNV. There is no vaccine or treatment drug for the illness, so taking steps to avoid mosquito bites is the only defense.

While preventing mosquito bites is obviously the most effective way to avoid WNV, successfully dodging a countless army of attackers is essentially impossible.

Reducing insect bite risk, however, is well within the range of protection that everyone can benefit from –– especially the elderly and pregnant women.

The City of Shawnee has taken a much more proactive approach this year, since there has been so much rain.

“As weather permits –– we are spraying areas of the city four evenings per week, which will cover the town about twice each week,” he said.

People can really help out a lot by emptying anything with standing water in it on their property, he said.

Tires laying around hold water, as well as clogged up guttering and little things like buckets and toys, he said. Bryce said every little bit helps.

“Things like bird baths and pet water dishes should be changed daily and pools should be maintained and cleaned routinely,” he said.

He said when the city finds areas of standing water, like near the creek beds in town, crews spread larvicide to cut down on mosquitoes.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that larvicides target larvae in the breeding habitat before they can mature into adult mosquitoes and disperse. Larvicide treatment of breeding habitats help reduce the adult mosquito population in nearby areas.

Liquid larvicide products are applied directly to water using backpack sprayers and truck or aircraft-mounted sprayers. Tablet, pellet, granular, and briquet formulations of larvicides are also applied by mosquito controllers to breeding areas.

Another method in use is bacterial insecticides.

Insects that are exposed to the Bacillus species have trouble digesting food they eat after the exposure. They then die of starvation.

Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is a microbe naturally found in soil. It makes proteins that are toxic to immature insects (larvae). There are many types of

Bt that target different insect groups, like include beetles, mosquitoes, black

flies, caterpillars, and moths, according to the EPA.

Bt has been registered for use in pesticides by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1961.

For more information, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1 (800) 858-7378.

An especially environment-friendly supplement or alternative is to increase mosquito munchers.

At geeksofpets.com, the site recommends adding fish to ponds or aquatic pools.

“Gold fish and minnows will do a nice job of eating mosquito larvae,” it states, “but Gambusia affinis, commonly called the mosquito fish, will do even better.”

If provided with adequate plants for the young to hide in, mosquito fish will reproduce quickly, providing a host of fish to take care of mosquito larvae, according to the website.

Repellents

Most repellents can be used on children and pregnant or nursing women, though products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD should not to be used on children under three years old. CDC states parents should not apply repellent to children’s hands because they tend to put their hands in their mouths.

The CDC suggests using EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20-percent DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs. Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs:

CDC recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.

Of the products registered with the EPA, those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection because of higher percentages of the active ingredient. However, this increase in protection time maximizes at about 50-percent DEET.

Other tips from the CDC include:

• Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

• Consider using clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) that are treated with permethrin (an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

• As much as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection.

• Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old. Protect them by draping mosquito netting over their carrier or car seat. Netting should have an elastic edge for a tight fit.

Sunscreen and repellent

The CDC states that people can, and should, use both a sunscreen and an insect repellent when they are outdoors. In general, the recommendation is to apply sunscreen first, followed by repellent.

CDC states if using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent.

It is not recommended to use a single product that combines insect repellent containing DEET and sunscreen. Repellent usually does not need to be reapplied as often as sunscreen.

Repellents that are applied according to label instructions may be used with sunscreen with no reduction in repellent activity.

However, limited data show a one-third decrease in the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens when DEET-containing insect repellents are used after a sunscreen is applied. Products that combine sunscreen and repellent are not recommended, because sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often and in larger amounts than needed for the repellent component to provide protection from biting insects.

For more information, visit the OSDH web site at http://go.usa.gov/wpz.

To report standing water, call the City of Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department at (405) 878-1529.

Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.