Battling bugs to prevent West Nile

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Sept. 3, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When News 12 asked how Tom Adams felt about mosquitoes as he was getting ready for his family reunion, this is how he answered.

"That's a good question, I mean, only the female bites," he laughed.

The bugs haven't stopped the Adams family reunion, but with six confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in our area, mosquitoes are not a laughing matter.

"This is going to be the worst year in the U.S. We live in the South, and we have subtropical climates, so it's definitely a new and challenging problem for us," said Infectious Diseases, Travel and Tropical Medicine Expert Dr. Tarak Patel.

Many people are feeling the effects.

"We've had lots of people, you know they can't stay outside in their yard and worry about getting bitten," said owner of The Mosquito Authority Jon Gassman.

"I try to keep my little boy in the house 'cause you can't hardly sit outside. They be eating you up," Adams said.

The good news? There are a lot of ways to protect yourself.

Patel says spraying with a simple insect repellant will do the trick, and not everyone who gets bitten will get sick.

"Most of us have a good immune system, which should take care of this infection and almost 75 percent of the infections are asymptomatic. So, we get a virus and it gets cleared on its own," Patel said.

Mosquito expert Jon Gassman says preventing mosquitoes at home is actually very simple. The key is getting rid of standing water.

"That's a breeding source. Something as small as a bottle cap out of direct sunlight, under a bush you can breed several hundred mosquitoes," he said.

So, refresh your birdbaths every two to three days, check the trays under your flower pots and look for places where rain water may be pooling up.

If all else fails, remember this advice.

"Watch out for the West Nile virus. Stay away from the mosquitoes," Adams said.

Patel says West Nile is a seasonal problem. So, as winter sets in, we should see less and less activity.

As we know, winter is still a long way away here in the South, so the best thing we can do is use bug spray and avoid being outside in the early morning and late evening when mosquito time is at its worst.

Also be on the lookout for dead birds. They can be a good indicator of whether the virus is in your community. If you see a dead bird, report it to your local health department.

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