Mansfield News

Muggy May means mosquito melee this summer

Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, a vector for the West Nile Virus.
Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, a vector for the West Nile Virus. Courtesy of Purdue University

Lorie Tomlin considers herself a mosquito mother lode.

“When I grew up in Louisiana, I never got bit. Here I’m like a buffet,” the Mansfield resident said. “I have bites all over my legs. I’m constantly spraying Off! on me. Walking in my yard to pick flowers or grill steaks, I just get attacked. They even bite me though my clothes.”

Tomlin’s mosquito magnetism isn’t just annoying and itchy, it could be dangerous.

Last week, Tarrant County Public Health reported the third West Nile positive mosquito sample, this one in the southeast portion of the county between Everman and Rendon. The other two were found in Richland Hills and the northwest portion of the county. No human cases of West Nile have been reported this summer, but the county and the city are on watch.

Tarrant County planned to start spraying last weekend, but Mansfield has no plans to spray, said Howard Redfearn, the city’s storm water manager. No West Nile positive samples have been reported at any of the six sample stations inside the city, he said. But this is prime time for West Nile, since the bird populations -- which are the West Nile hosts -- are moving through. Mosquitoes bite the birds and transmit the virus to humans.

And there are a lot of mosquitoes this year, thanks to almost 17 inches of rain in May.

“We are going to have a higher number of all critters this year,” Redfearn said. “We’ve had several years of drought followed by a wet spring. It makes everything bigger.”

According to Redfearn, there are more than 30 species of mosquitoes, but the one the city and county are on the watch for is Culex quinquefasciatus, which is known to be in the this area and capable of transmitting West Nile virus from birds to humans.

“They lay eggs in rafts and don’t breed in flood plains and generally don’t breed in creeks,” Redfearn said. “They love to breed in man-made devices, like bird baths, trash cans, buckets, totes, rain barrels, wheelbarrows, coolers or clogged gutters. You need to eliminate all standing water sources.”

Tomlin was dumping out the water in her bird bath every day.

“One of our friends told us to get Dunks (an insecticide that kills mosquito larvae),” Tomlin said. “The cover for the valve for our sprinkler system would hold water. It was like a maternity ward. I had to get a Dunk and put in there. Even the bottom of your planters, you have to dump that out. They will get in there, breed and hatch.”

The Culex quinquefasciatus species is most active at dawn and dusk, when the mosquitoes are eating, Redfearn said, so he recommends wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants and insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin or synthetic permethrin. A natural alternative is lemon eucalyptus oil, he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile will have no reaction. About 20 percent will get West Nile fever with symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, back pain, and occasionally skin rash, swollen lymph glands and eye pain. Less than 1 percent will contract the West Nile virus, which can lead to encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, disorientation or confusion, stupor or coma, tremors, convulsions, pain and partial paralysis. Infections require hospitalization.

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451

Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM