Mosquito fever hits Tucumcari

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

They buzz. They bite. They can even kill.

Yes, the obsequious mosquito is swarming about town, especially with the recent roaring rainfalls. Although usually associated with marshlands or swamps, droves of the pesky pests have been buzzing into drier climates, including New Mexico, according to the State Department of Health.

In addition to the itchy bites, mosquitoes are known to carry the dreaded West Nile Virus, which was first detected in New Mexico in 2002, the health department reported. The most extreme infection of the virus, the department explains, causes the brain to swell, resulting in death. Although the West Nile noted in New Mexico three years ago occurred in horses, the health department said 88 human cases of West Nile were reported in the state in 2004, four of them fatal.

So how can people protect themselves — and their animals — from the onslaught of mosquitoes.

Citronella candles are popular, so popular area merchants said they usually sell out by early spring. Representatives at Kmart, Alco and Family Dollar had none in stock at the end of August, the month in which the most cases of West Nile hit last year, according to the department of health’s statistics.

Repellents used directly on the skin are another option and come in a wide variety. According to a survey published by the Mississippi Department of Health, plant-based repellents offered little or no mosquito-deterrent while
Avon’s Skin So Soft has long been lauded for its mosquito repelling powers. Mississippi’s health department found the repelling nature of the Avon product lasts about half an hour, much less than the nine hours or more found in products enhanced with DEET.

What is DEET?

The Environmental Protection Agency calls DEET one of the most effective insect repellents around. First developed by the U.S. Army in 1946, DEET was registered for use by the general public in 1957, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site.

Although generally safe, DEET has been known to cause some side effects that include skin or eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and usually occur only when ingested or used in an overdose, according to the health department in Mississippi.

Some products that do not use chemicals include bug zappers and mosquito traps and are outlined by the American Mosquito Control Association.

Repellent tips

• Use aerosols or pump sprays for treating skin and clothing. These products provide even application.
• Use liquids, creams, lotions, or sticks to apply more precisely to exposed skin.
• After outdoor activity, wash DEET-covered skin with soap and water.
• Always keep insect repellents out of the reach of small children.

• Apply to eyes, lips or mouth or over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
• Over apply or saturate skin or clothing.
• Apply to skin under clothing.
• Apply more often than directed on the product label.


Mosquitoes by the numbers

4 — number of life stages: egg, larva, pupa, adult

24 to 48 — number of hours it takes a larva, or “wiggler,” to hatch

100 to 300 — number of eggs in an egg raft laid by a single mosquito

300 — year B.C. in which Aristotle referred to mosquitoes as “empis” in his “Historia Animalium” where he documented their life cycle and metamorphic abilities

2,500 — number of different mosquito species throughout the world

200 — number of species occurring in the United States
77 — number of species in Florida.

Source: American Mosquito Control Association