TRENTON — To prevent mosquitoes this summer, the New Jersey Departments of Health and Environmental Protection are asking homeowners, businesses and contractors working on Sandy rebuilding projects to drain sources of standing water outdoors and routinely check property for containers collecting water where mosquitoes can breed.
“While we typically don’t identify human illnesses from mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV) until late summer here in New Jersey, it’s never too early to drain sources of standing water and reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.
Concerns are elevated this year because of increased potential opportunities for mosquito breeding due to Superstorm Sandy, which could increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, including WNV.
“This season will be especially challenging because Superstorm Sandy has created new places for mosquitoes to breed such as wet debris piles and depressions left by fallen trees,” O’Dowd explained. “It’s important to remove, clean or repair anything that can collect rain or sprinkler water – such as debris, clogged or damaged gutters or old car tires.”
Steps that residents, business owners and contractors can take to reduce populations of the insect on their properties include:
- At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans;
- Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out;
- Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water; and
- Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
“Mosquito control agencies in coastal counties are doing their best to treat sources of standing water caused by Sandy,” said Claudia O’Malley, principal biologist in the DEP’s Office of Mosquito Control. “However, many of these sources are in places that are hard to reach, such as marshes or coastal forests, so it is even more important that homeowners do their part to offset a potential increase in mosquito breeding. Look very carefully around your property for anything that could hold water in which mosquitos can lay eggs. If you are starting to rebuild, make sure standing water is not collecting on tarps or in any receptacles.”
Additional tips on how to limit mosquitoes on your property include:
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property;
- Drill holes in the bottom and elevate recycling containers that are left outdoors;
- Repair and clean storm-damaged roof gutters, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains. Roof gutters are easily overlooked but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season;
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use;
- Turn over wheelbarrows and do not allow water to stagnate in bird baths;
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens are fashionable but become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate;
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, including those that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers;
- Repair and maintain barriers, such as window and door screens, to prevent mosquitoes from entering buildings. Barriers over rain barrels or cistern and septic pipes will deny female mosquitoes the opportunity to lay eggs on water; and
- If you have problems controlling mosquitoes, contact your county mosquito control agency by calling 1-800-NO-NJ WNV.
WNV is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms of more serious illness include severe headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. The elderly and immune-compromised are at higher risk of more severe disease. Last year, New Jersey had the largest amount of human cases on record than any previous year in the state – 48 human cases of WNV, including six deaths.
As part of surveillance activities, the Department of Health’s Public Health Environmental Laboratory this month began testing dead crows, blue jays and other select bird species, which serve as indicators of West Nile virus activity. Residents who encounter dead or ill birds should call their local health department for specific instructions for storage if the dead bird is suitable for testing. When handling a dead bird or animal for disposal, use gloves and carefully place the bird in double-plastic bags.
New Jersey’s WNV surveillance, control, and prevention activities involve the coordinated efforts of a number of federal, state and local agencies. These include the Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Mosquito Control Commission, the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology, and local health and mosquito control agencies.
For more information on WNV and New Jersey’s efforts to limit its impact, visit the Department of Health’s West Nile web page at: http://nj.gov/health/cd/westnile/index.shtml, the Department of Environmental Protection’s web page at http://www.nj.gov/dep/mosquito or call 1-888-NO-NJ WNV.
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