By Jim Beasley
Mosquitoes. They bite. They bother. They can carry diseases.
West Nile virus first appeared in South Carolina more than a decade ago. Birds are “reservoirs” for the virus, but it’s pesky mosquitoes that first feed on the blood of those birds, then transmit the virus when biting people.
Do your part
DHEC seeks your help tracking the re-emergence of West Nile in the Palmetto State by collecting certain types of dead birds and delivering them to DHEC offices for lab testing.
Dr. Chris Evans is a Ph.D. entomologist with the DHEC Bureau of Laboratories, who performs lab analysis on blue jays, crows, house sparrows, and house finches.
“By having citizens watch out for these dead birds and submitting them to us, we broaden our ability to identify areas of the state where mosquitoes are spreading illness,” Evans said. “It’s easy to be involved. Just go to www.scdhec.gov/birdtesting and read about the safe and simple way to submit a bird to us for testing.”
Take steps to protect
The best way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites in the first place:
- Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellents
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
- Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.