It’s the sound that makes us cringe and squirm. The relentless high-pitched buzz that seems to follow us around with impeccable accuracy. It makes us want to head for the hills and hide, although, experts say that may not help you much this year either.
Relentless rainfall coupled with warm temperatures could lead to an explosion of mosquitoes this summer.
Multnomah County vector specialist Jim Stafford says mosquito populations rely on two conditions: water and heat.
“If we get a lot of heat, a long hot spell, that can really drive the mosquito populations up,” Stafford told KATU. “We definitely have enough water in place for the larvae to develop.”
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Their larvae can outlast freezing temperatures during winter. When the warms, they hatch and produce more mosquitoes- continuing the cycle.
Stafford says Multnomah County crews took samples from a pond on Sauvie Island Thursday morning.
Stafford says more mosquitoes increase our chances of West Nile Virus (WNV) and potentially the Zika virus, although, he says the probability of getting the virus in the Pacific Northwest is extremely rare because the type of mosquito that carries Zika is not typically found in our area.
Nonethless, Oregon plans to trap and test mosquitoes this year for Zika.
Multnomah County tests regularly for WNV in the field and at the lab.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes
Fortunately, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
Stafford says it’s difficult to predict how bad mosquitoes will be in say August because it all depends on the weather.
Stafford says now is the time to prepare though.
“It’s going to be their responsibility to make sure that they’re going through their yards, talking to the neighbors about clearing any standing water,” Stafford said of homeowners. “While [vector specialists] can get into these natural areas and do more of the public stuff, it really is a job for everybody.”
Best Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites
- Install or repair all window and door screens.
- Consider staying indoors during peak mosquito biting times, from dusk to dawn.
Wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
- Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for long periods of time.
- Use a mosquito repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET (a chemical used as insect repellent) for adults and no more than 10 percent for children when outdoors. Do not use mosquito repellent containing DEET on children under three years of age. Read carefully and follow all directions on the insect repellent package.
- Hunters should wear gloves when handling and cleaning animals to prevent blood exposure to bare hands. Game meat should be cooked thoroughly.
- Limit outdoor activities when advised by local officials
Best Ways to Prevent Mosquitoes at Home
- Eliminate mosquito habitat around your home
- Drain standing water from old tires, flower pots, plastic tarps, wheelbarrows and anything else.
- Change water in bird baths, ponds, wading pools, pet bowls and animal troughs twice a week.
- Repair leaking faucets and sprinklers; clean clogged gutters.
- Properly maintain swimming pools.
- Check for containers or trash in hard-to-see places, such as under bushes
Multnomah County residents can get free mosquitofish from May 15 – August 30. Pick up your fish from Multnomah County Vector Control (5235 N Columbia Blvd, Portland). Call us at 503-988-3464 for more information and hours.