COLUMBIA - Warm weather is approaching, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control wants your help to reduce the risk from the serious diseases mosquitoes can carry.
"Citizens of South Carolina can assist with their own protection from West Nile virus by submitting dead Blue Jays and crows for West Nile virus testing," said Chris Evans, a Ph.D. entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories. "Bird surveillance is an integral part of the surveillance system and having the public's involvement helps us sample a much wider area.
"Submission dates for Blue Jays and crows began March 17 and will continue through November 28," Evans said. "Citizens are asked to follow the directions on the bird submission Web site to safely pick up and transport the birds to the closest DHEC Environmental Health office for testing."
According to Evans, birds that test positive for West Nile virus are reported to local mosquito control agencies so they can take appropriate action.
"As the weather begins to warm, regular spring cleaning activities can help reduce mosquito populations" said Sue Ferguson, an environmental health manager with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health. "Removing items from your yard that collect water, cleaning roof gutters and filling in low-lying areas will help prevent mosquitoes from breeding and allow outdoor activities such as gardening, barbecues and outdoor sports to be safer and more enjoyable.
"Mosquito populations can emerge from very small amounts of water, if that water is allowed to stagnate," Ferguson said. "It is important to support local mosquito prevention and control efforts."
Tips to help you make your yard safer and more pleasant this spring:
• Remove any buckets, cups, bottles, flowerpots, plastic bags,
tires or any water-holding containers that might have accumulated outside.
• Do not allow water to stagnate in areas of the yard such as in
low-lying areas, roadside ditches, under driveway culverts, in boats or on tarps that cover yard items such as boats, swimming pools, grills and woodpiles.
• Keep birdbaths and pet bowls clean. Flush with clear water and
clean out at least once a week.
• Clean fallen leaves and other debris out of roof gutters and
• Make sure outdoor trash cans have tight-fitting lids. If lids
are not available, drill holes in the bottom of the can.
Other items to check for during the spring spruce-up:
• Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good repair.
• Stock ornamental ponds with minnows or use appropriately labeled
products to control mosquito larvae.
• Trim and maintain shrubs and grass.
"It is important to learn how to avoid mosquito bites to reduce our chances of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases, as well as to conduct mosquito prevention and control efforts year-round, especially during spring, summer and fall," said Dr. Lena Bretous, epidemiologist for vector-borne diseases with DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control.
"Mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. They then transmit the virus, during feeding, to humans and animals."
In addition to preventing mosquitoes from breeding, Dr. Bretous advises people to practice personal protection measures to avoid mosquito
• Stay inside at dawn, dusk and early evening when mosquitoes are
• If you must be outside during these times, wear long-sleeved
shirts and pants.
• Use appropriate insect repellents according to label
Horses and dogs also can get mosquito-borne diseases. Check with your veterinarian about heartworm testing and preventive medicine for dogs.
Vaccines are available to prevent West Nile virus as well as Eastern equine encephalitis virus in equines. Each vaccine should be administered in both spring and fall because South Carolina’s mosquito season is so long.
DHEC’s West Nile virus Web site reports data gathered from its Bureau of Labs, along with collaborative data contributed by the Department of Natural Resources and Clemson University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center.
For more information or assistance with mosquito control efforts, contact your local mosquito control program. For guidelines on submitting bird samples, surveillance data or more information on West Nile virus, visit: http://www.scdhec.gov/westnile. For updated information about recommended mosquito repellants, visit the CDC Web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm.