Michigan county health department on lookout for mosquito-borne diseases

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Jackson County has been conducting mosquito surveillance 4 out of the last 5 years. Image: Pixabay

By McCoy Scribner

Mosquitoes are out in full force this summer, which also means a risk of mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Jackson County, Michigan, Health Department is monitoring the bugs by trapping them, in order to keep a lookout for the Zika virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE).

Two types of traps are being set, one for Zika-bearing mosquitoes and another for mosquitoes that can carry EEE.

Don Hayduk, the director of the county’s Department Environmental Health Division, said each of the viruses has only one or a few types of mosquitoes that can host it.

“They look at these mosquitoes through a microscope and they start sorting them according to genus and species, and through the microscope, you can see the distinguishing features that separate the species,” he said.

Hayduk said his department haven’t found mosquitoes carrying either disease yet.

“We go out, we set traps in appropriate environments, we collect the mosquitoes, we sort the mosquitoes searching for the ones that we’re looking for,” he said.

Zika infections generally cause mild symptoms, but the virus is of particular concern to pregnant women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Zika infections during pregnancy can lead to severe birth defects.

Though rare, the EEE virus can lead to brain infections. According to the CDC, about 30% of people infected with EEE die.

Michigan health officials advise following these steps to avoid contracting a mosquito-borne illness:

  • Apply an insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-approved repellent to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Wear loose-fitting and covering clothing such as long sleeves and pants while outdoors.
  • Repair holes in door or window screens to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.
  • Once a week, empty or change any standing water in buckets, bird baths, kiddie pools and more.
  • Avoid the early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.

This story is brought to you as part of a partnership between WKAR and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

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