Standing water and mosquitoes are a potentially deadly combination and county officials want to ensure residents are safe as possible during their time outdoors.
Mosquitoes are known carriers of the West Nile Virus. Only about one in 500 of the insects carry the virus, which can lead to serious illness or death.
The increased number of West Nile cases in the United States in recent weeks makes it the largest outbreak of the virus since the late 1990s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 1,000 cases have been reported, with nearly 50 deaths.
At least one case of the virus has been reported in Columbia County, said Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker.
“Public health officials have confirmed on Aug. 15 that an 80-year-old white male in Columbia County was diagnosed with West Nile virus,” she said. “He is recovering at his residence.”
The CDC notes that only about 20 percent of people bitten by a mosquito infected with the virus will get sick. Symptoms can include fever, headache and vomiting and can last from a few days to a few weeks.
One way to minimize mosquitoes is to limit their breeding areas. Tucker said that even a small amount of standing water can present mosquitoes with the perfect place to lay eggs.
“They can lay eggs any place there is a water source,” she said. “Most of the time, the smaller sources are the greatest breeding areas. The water is stagnant and still, and even a bottle cap amount of water can have dozens of eggs in it.”
In an Aug. 20 release, the Columbia County Integrated Mosquito Management Program Team, which was formed in 2010, explained that the county uses a mosquito abatement program known as larviciding.
“The larvicide is distributed in problem areas, including county-owned retention ponds, storm drains, stagnant water sources in right-of ways, abandoned or neglected swimming pools and other mosquito breeding sources of water,” according to the release.
Despite these efforts, mosquitoes are still prevalent and homeowners are asked to take the necessary measures to help reduce the mosquito population.
“Check your home for the following common mosquito breeding problem areas: swimming pools, bird baths, gutters and downspouts, decorative ponds, containers, tarps, leaky spigots, low spots in the yard, tires (and) and remove them as soon as possible,” the release states.
Above all, Tucker emphasizes that standing water must be dumped.
“While many people look at large bodies of water to blame for mosquitoes, more often than not it’s a flower pot or something of that nature right in their yard that had been overlooked,” she said.