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Mosquito "must-knows" as Montana temperatures heat up

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Posted at 8:36 AM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 10:36:20-04

GREAT FALLS — The Cascade County Weed & Mosquito Division is reporting that this mosquito season is more likely to be marked by annoyance than disease.

Division superintendent Josh Blystone said his agency focuses on mosquito surveillance and larvicide application. Based on their current observations, only two of the county’s mosquito species are West Nile Virus (WNV) carriers, meaning the majority are not.

“Right now a lot of the mosquito species that people are dealing with do not carry West Nile virus. They’re just annoying,” Blystone said.

While many of the mosquitoes you’re likely to encounter are likely not carriers, Blystone said it’s important to take precautions against the potentially deadly virus as temperatures increase over the next few weeks.

“Heat has a lot to do with it...the virus living inside the mosquito requires a very specific mean temperature...The main thing you can do is just wear mosquito repellent. Deep-based repellents are the best,” Blystone said.

Blystone also stressed that this mosquito season isn’t likely to be as worrisome as people might think. “It might seem like a bad mosquito year but a lot of the mosquitoes we’re seeing right now don’t carry West Nile virus, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be protecting yourself,” Blystone said.

There have been no known human infections detected in Cascade County this year, but it's always wise to take precautions.

Officials offer the following "4-D" advice:

  • DEET - Apply repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET, and follow the directions on the package.
  • DUSK and DAWN - This is when mosquitoes are most active. Try to avoid outdoor activities during these times.
  • DRAIN STANDING WATER - Standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Drain such areas around your home (gutters, pools, tires, buckets, water bowls, etc.).
  • DRESS APPROPRIATELY - Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.

The severity and symptoms of WNV can vary widely. Approximately 80 percent of people infected experience no symptoms, but up to 20 percent of people can develop a mild illness, called West Nile fever. Fever generally resolves itself without treatment, but dangerous brain infections such as encephalitis or meningitis can develop in 1 out of 150 people.

Symptoms of these diseases might include headache, rash, high fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, muscle weakness, tremors, convulsions, coma, and paralysis.Individuals who develop any of these symptoms should see their healthcare provider immediately, according to the CCHD.