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Winter showers bring hungry mosquitoes

POSTED April 5, 2011 10:49 p.m.

A mild, wet winter could translate into a buzzy, bitey, mosquito-filled summer.

Flooding along the San Joaquin River has created myriad spawning pools for mosquitoes unseen in drought years, potentially amplifying the mosquito population this spring and summer.

“For mosquitoes, things are looking up right now,” said Jerry Davis, manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District.

The district has been sending crews up and down the San Joaquin River to root out the mosquito breeding grounds in an attempt to stem the expected population surge.

At the same time, the district is continuing with its standard aerial imaging process – taking photos of backyards across the district in search of unused swimming pools turned into mosquito havens– though the work has been set back a few weeks this year by the rain.

“Between the backyard sources and the flooding along the river, we have more places to go than we have people,” Davis said.

The work has been hurried by the current warm weather, which is causing mosquitoes to begin hatching.

To protect from mosquitoes, Davis recommended using insect repellant containing DEET and remaining inside for an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset – those times when mosquitoes are most active.

Better yet, local residents can help prevent mosquitoes from becoming a problem by emptying any buckets or pools full of standing water, calling in high concentrations of mosquitoes, and reporting suspected breeding grounds in neighbors’ backyards. Mosquitofish are also available for free from the District, and can be placed in ponds to eat hatching mosquitoes, preventing infestations.

West Nile Virus has not yet been detected in Stanislaus County in 2011, likely due to low average temperatures, Davis said. Thus far, only Sacramento, San Bernardino and Shasta counties have confirmed West Nile activity – dead birds, infected with the virus. No human cases have been reported yet this year.

But once daily average temperatures reach 68 degrees Fahrenheit, no later than May 1, the disease will start to replicate and mosquitoes will again become the primary vector for the potentially deadly disease now endemic to Stanislaus County. West Nile Virus will continue to be a threat until temperatures cool again in October, Davis said.

Given the higher than average mosquito population, this West Nile season could be particularly widespread, Davis said.

“This one looks like it’s going to be more significant,” Davis said.

The public can do its part to help stem the disease, Davis said.

Sightings of dead birds, less than 24 hours old, should be called in to the district. The district will pick up the dead bird and test it for West Nile Virus, giving workers an indication as to regions affected by the disease.

For more information, to request mosquitofish, or to report standing water or suspected infestations call 634-1234. To report a dead bird, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473)

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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