How to Avoid the Perfect Swarm (and WNV)


As Americans plan summertime activities, many are choosing to stay home and enjoy backyard vacations due to job uncertainty and rising gas prices. While outdoors, there is a good chance they will see a foreclosed home nearby. And, if they are grilling out for the first time this year, they will probably find water pooled at the bottom of the grill from a wetter than normal spring in many areas.

"Current economic and weather conditions have created the perfect storm for what could be a very troubling mosquito season," said Ron Harrison, PhD, Orkin entomologist and technical director. "Through May, our mosquito treatments are up more than 20 percent over the first five months of last year," added Harrison.

More than a nuisance, mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus and other types of viral encephalitis, among other diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serious symptoms of West Nile can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation and paralysis. Of the 1,356 cases of West Nile in 2008, 44 were fatal, and there have been a total of 1,130 West Nile deaths in the U.S. since the virus was first identified here in 1999.

"The intensity of virus transmission varies from year to year and geographic area, but even during mild seasons, West Nile virus can cause severe illness and death," said Dr. Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, behavioral scientist for the CDC's NationalCenter for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases. "However, steps can be taken to minimize the risk of West Nile virus infection."

Orkin offers the following tips to homeowners to prevent mosquito bites:

-- When outdoors, spray an EPA-registered insect repellant on exposed skin or on clothing. For greater protection, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks. Prime biting hours for most mosquitoes [that spread West Nile virus] are between dusk and dawn.

-- Empty standing water from gutters, birdbaths or flower pots, and thin vegetation around the home.

-- Make sure screens on windows and doors fit tightly and have no holes, to prevent entry.

-- Call a pest control professional for information on mosquito control services.

Mosquitoes are not only a problem in the U.S.; they are deadly in Africa. For every mosquito service purchased in 2009, Orkin, through its Fight the Bite campaign, will donate funds for one long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito bed net to Nothing But Nets, a global, grassroots campaign of the United Nations Foundation. Orkin pledged at least $150,000 this year to purchase and distribute nets and to educate African communities about their proper use. By signing up for Orkin's mosquito service, you will help send a net to save a life in Africa. For more information, visit









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