OUACHITA PARISH (KTVE/KARD) — The warmer temperatures signaled the start of summer. However, one thing most people do not look forward to in the heat is those annoying mosquitoes.

Back on May 19, 2022, the Ouachita Parish Mosquito Abatement began spraying across the area to fight mosquitoes and their diseases. Shannon Rider is the director of Ouachita Parish Mosquito Abatement District number one. According to Director Rider, the program divided Ouachita Parish into four quadrants including northeast, northwest, southwest and southeast. I-20 divides the south and north quadrants, and the Ouachita River divides the east and west quadrants. The program further divided each quadrant into 51 spray zones.

Director Rider reported that Ouachita Parish saw West Nile Virus because of mosquitoes in the area.

“This year in Ouachita Parish, West Nile Virus first presented near the end of May in our trap collections from May 24. This is not all that unusual if we look at the 20-year history of the disease in Ouachita Parish, but if we were to look at just last year it is as it didn’t present until mid-July,” Director Rider said. “The primary driver of this is most likely the weather. We had our first 90-degree day this year the second week of May and continued to have numerous (if not a majority) of 90-degree or above days since.”

According to Director Rider, in addition to hot weather and not much rainfall, this provided ideal conditions for transmission of the West Nile Virus.

“These two conditions combined tend to drive West Nile Virus transmission due to the birds and mosquitoes sharing the limited quantity of water available,” Director Rider said. “This water that is available is usually high in organic content which is the type of water Culex quinquefasciatus (the Southern House mosquito and primary carrier of West Nile Virus) prefers to lay her eggs in.”

According to Director Rider, birds are necessary to the West Nile Virus transmission cycle.

“They are amplifying hosts (continue the transmission cycle) as humans and other mammals are dead end hosts (for example: a mosquito cannot get infected from a human and pass on to another living animal (including humans and birds),” Director Rider said. “To date (Wednesday, June 29) we have had 41 positive West Nile Virus positive pools returned thus far in 2022.”

How to protect yourself from West Nile Virus

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, you can “Fight the Bite.”

Mosquitoes are out and biting and spreading West Nile virus. Protecting yourself is very simple and it could spare you from getting this disease.

LDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard

The Louisiana Department of Health reported when West Nile Virus infected mosquitoes bite a human, they can contract the virus. West Nile Virus infected people can be affected in one of the following three ways:

  • West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage.
  • The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms.
  • The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, these cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease. Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.

Louisiana Department of Health

Louisiana Department of Health provides West Nile Virus safety tips

  • If you will be outside, you should wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30 percent DEET when used on children. Insect repellents also are not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label when using repellent.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Do not apply under your clothes or on broken skin.
  • To apply repellent to your face, spray on your hands and then rub on your face, avoiding your eyes.
  • Adults should always apply repellent to children.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors for long periods of time.
  • Avoid perfumes and colognes when outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Make sure that your house has tight-fitting windows and doors, and that all screens are free of holes.

Protecting Your Home

  • Reduce the mosquito population by eliminating standing water around your home, which is where mosquitoes breed.
  • Dispose of tin cans, ceramic pots and other unnecessary containers that have accumulated on your property. Turn over wheelbarrows, plastic wading pools, buckets, trash cans, children’s toys or anything that could collect water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.
  • Check and clean roof gutters routinely. They are often overlooked but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family for a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.

According to Director Rider, based on what Ouachita Parish Mosquito Abatement future reports show as it relates to West Nile Virus, its response will include the following:

  • Continued aerial spray missions (in cases of higher infection rates in mosquitoes).
  • Continued ULV adulticiding (adult mosquitoes) spray missions by ground.
  • Targeted ULV larviciding (juvenile mosquitoes) spray missions by ground.
  • Continued larviciding including but not limited to the following:

1. A targeted storm drain larviciding program.

2. Tire pile treatments.

3. A specialized trapping program/system at the zoo.

4. Continued public awareness through press releases and Facebook.