Hurricane Florence dropped more than 2 feet of water in just a few days across Southeastern North Carolina, causing widespread flooding and creating a prime hatching ground for mosquitoes.
Understandably, residents working to recover from the hurricane’s damage are concerned about the increased number and, in some cases, increased size of mosquitoes they’re encountering.
The Centers for Disease Control advises that adult mosquitoes do not generally survive high winds during a hurricane. However, the flooding that sometimes follows hurricanes often causes mosquito eggs laid in the soil during previous flooding to hatch, resulting in very large populations of floodwater mosquitoes.
Most floodwater mosquitoes are nuisances and not the species known to spread viruses that make people sick.
Fortunately, we’re not in an area where mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, chikungunya, or dengue are encountered.
The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina, although rare, are LaCrosse encephalitis, West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis. In fact, almost 70 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in 2017 in North Carolina were acquired during travel outside the continental United States.
The appearance of quarter-size mosquitoes known as Gallinippers or Psorophora ciliata, while unpleasant, is not a major health concern. Most of the mosquitoes that transmit the diseases of concern are not the big ones.
The emphasis should be on emptying any standing water promptly so that mosquitoes can’t breed and also the use of mosquito repellent with DEET.
I know that there’s some enhanced mosquito spraying, which is a good thing.
The governor last month ordered $4 million to fund mosquito control efforts in 27 counties currently under a major disaster declaration, including New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.
New Hanover and Brunswick have been dispatching trucks to spray for mosquitoes throughout the counties. Brunswick County also is employing aircraft to spray for mosquitoes.
Dr. Paul Kamitsuka is New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s hospital epidemiologist.
How to protect against mosquito bites
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors.
• Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET or an equivalent when outside and use caution when applying to children.
• Dress children in clothing that covers their arms and legs.
• Cover cribs, strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
• Reapply insect repellent as directed; If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors, and use air conditioning if possible.