Problem mosquitoes, ticks off to slow start in region
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2013 8:52PM
Updated: February 10, 2014 9:19PM
The storms of early summer have created a fertile breeding ground for ticks and pest mosquitoes — as the skin of humans and pets can attest — but so far house mosquitoes, which carry West Nile virus, haven’t been much of a problem this summer.
Lake County Health Department Administrator Nick Doffin said the county puts out larvicide in wet areas with good sources of organic material early in the season.
“We’re catching a lot of good numbers in the traps,” Doffin said. “We’re targeting the female adult house or Culex mosquito. We sample the water and send it down to the state. A lot of communities spray for mosquitoes and we’ll spray in the unincorporated areas if necessary.”
Nine counties in the state, including Starke County, have reported finding house mosquitoes with West Nile Virus in water samples, but no human cases have been reported to the state so far.
Last year, the state had 77 reported cases of West Nile virus, according to Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman Ken Deverson. Lake County had seven cases and Porter County reported four cases.
West Nile virus is found in birds, and house mosquitoes become disease vectors by biting the birds. As more West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes breed, they start biting humans. The virus can cause a variety of symptoms from headache, fever and vomiting to encephalitis and meningitis.
Doffin said the cooler temperatures may have helped lower the incidence so far, but the weather is starting to get hotter and drier.
“A lot of it has to do with the temperature,” Doffin said. “House mosquitoes can breed by artificial containers holding water, such as a malfunctioning septic tank, and typically near high organic matter.”
Doffin said homeowners should clean up items that might be serving as mosquito breeding grounds, including old tires without rims, unused flower pots, water cans, clogged gutters and even fishbowls.
Tick season has been pretty tough on dogs and cats so far this summer.
Dr. Tracy Cooley said he’s seen an average of four dogs with cases of ticks every year for the past five years.
“About 20 years ago, it was a big deal to see a dog with ticks, but people tell me about pulling ticks off their dogs pretty often,” said Cooley, who said reports of ticks on people aren’t uncommon either.
The Lake County Health Department has two reported cases of Lyme disease in 2013. Lyme disease, which is transmitted by deer ticks, can cause fever, fatigue and rash, and the infection can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system if left untreated.
“Flea season doesn’t start up until the middle of the summer, but tick season starts when we get the first one or two days with temperatures over 50 degrees, which can be as early as March,” he said.
Veterinarians recommend pet owners use a good flea and tick preventer like Frontline or Advantix for the season.
“There’s been an explosion of topical flea products at stores, but I’ve seen two dogs covered in ticks who used these products,” Cooley said. “A lot of them aren’t as good.”