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Keeping skeeters at bay

Dr. Drew Werner

EAGLE COUNTY – Bugs. They bite, sting and sometimes give us the creepy crawlies. Most concerning is the fact that they can carry disease. The biggest offenders are mosquitoes and ticks. West Nile virus is born on the wings of the Culex tarsalis mosquito. While there are more than 170 species of the biting pests, it is the Culex species that carries West Nile Virus in Colorado. Even more specifically, it is the female mosquito that bites. She needs blood to lay eggs. The male mosquito feeds on nectar.In any case, don’t underestimate West Nile virus. Be smart and “fight The bite.” Just like wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, there are things we can do besides locking ourselves indoors. So, what to do? First, second and third, use an insect repellent registered and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes two that have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy. This has been supported by well done scientific studies. These two products are:– DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)– Picaridin (KBR 3023)The general duration of their benefit can be estimated in the following, listed by product, and hours of protection:– DEET, 30 percent, 6 hours.– DEET, 20 percent, 5 hours.– DEET, 6.65 percent, 2 hours.– DEET, 4.75 percent, 1.5 hours.– Picaridin, 5 -10 percent, 1-2 hours.DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) remains the longest lasting repellent. More than 100,000,000 people use DEET each year, a testimony to its safety. Rare reported reactions result from misuse. Picaridin is newly available and appears to be safe. In either case, their proper use is essential. Here are some tips taken from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment:– The higher the percentage of DEET in a repellent, the longer the protection lasts. Higher concentrations do not work better, they just last longer. There is probably little need to use concentrations above 30 percent.– Choose a product containing the right amount of DEET to match the time spent outdoors, or reapply DEET or Picaridin as needed based on the length of your exposure.– DEET is poisonous if ingested! Keep DEET containers out of the reach of small children. It is safe on their skin, but nowhere else!– Parents should apply repellent to young children to iensure complete coverage and proper application. Avoid getting the repellent on children’s hands or in their eyes or mouths.– Alternative repellents that don’t contain DEET or Picaridin may provide protection, but studies have shown that these repellents don’t provide protection for as long.– Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors can reduce the need for repellent.– Use enough repellent to cover exposed skin. Don’t apply repellent to skin that is under clothing. Heavy application is not necessary to achieve protection.– Do not apply repellent to cuts, wounds or irritated skin.– Wash your hands after applying before handling food, as well as washing off skin after returning indoors.– Do not spray aerosol or pump products in enclosed areas.nDo not apply aerosol or pump products directly to the face. Spray hands and then rub them carefully over the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.Other prevention tips:– Limit time spent outdoors at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are most active.– If you or members of your family are outdoors, protect yourself by using insect repellant on a regular basis.– Your back yard or patio is not a “safe zone.” Even a brief trip out to the barbecue or garden allows time for an infected mosquito to bite.– Keep doors and windows closed and/or properly screened to keep mosquitoes out.– Placing screening on porches also is effective.– Repair or replace torn or damaged screens.To eliminate mosquito breeding grounds:– Remove standing water in ponds, ditches, gutters, flowerpots, tires and cans.– Check unusual items that might collect even small amounts of water, such as wheelbarrows, hubcaps, toys, garden equipment, pool covers and plastic sheeting. Turn these items upside down to prevent them from holding water.– Drill drainage holes in tire swings.– Empty water in birdbaths and wading pools every week so mosquito larvae cannot survive.– Treat livestock water tanks with BTI, a bacteria that kills larvae but is safe for animals. BTI is available at home and garden stores and is commonly called mosquito “dunks” or pellets.– Stock ornamental ponds and fountains with fish that eat mosquito larvae or treat with BTI. The Colorado Division of Wildlife recommends the use of fathead minnows, which can be purchased commercially at private fish hatcheries. The division strongly recommends against the use of gambusia fish. nPrevent standing water by not over watering lawns and gardens.nTrim shrubbery and remove garden debris.Remember to check out http://www.FightTheBiteColorado.com as well as our own Eagle County Web site http://www.eaglecounty.us/westNile/. Information also can be obtained by calling the Colorado Help Line at 1-877-462-2911. The toll-free line, which is staffed by trained professionals, is in operation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and operates on a reduced schedule on weekends and holidays.I hope you, like me plan on enjoying every minute of our summer, much of it in our great outdoors.Let me know what’s on your mind at editor@vaildaily.com. I’d love to hear from you.Remember your health is your responsibility. Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado


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