'Tis mosquito season, and given that the Zika virus — which is transmitted by mosquitoes — is in the international headlines, mosquito season this year has special meaning.
The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department, like other local health jurisdictions, continues to work closely with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the impact of Zika locally. The CDC and DPHHS are closely monitoring infections and working to improve diagnostic testing.
Fortunately, according to a recent update on Montana’s Health Alert Network, DPHHS “does not anticipate mosquito-borne transmission of the (Zika) virus in Montana, because we do not have the mosquitoes (that) are known to transmit the disease.” DPHHS did point out, however, that the state has been impacted by travelers returning from areas greatly affected by the virus. Areas of concern include South America, the southern United States, the eastern U.S. seaboard, Puerto Rico and portions of Hawaii.
As of late May, specimens from 57 individuals with a suspected exposure to Zika who were experiencing symptoms and/or were pregnant had been submitted to the Montana Public Health Laboratory for testing. Of those, one positive test specimen had been identified, 44 others were negative, and 12 tests were pending.
In the Health Alert Network message, DPHHS urged physicians and other healthcare providers to “continue to advise that pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctors or other healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare providers before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.”
Though Montana is not home to the type of mosquito spreading Zika — Aedes aegypti — the state does host other types, most typically Aedes albopictus. You’ll be happy to know that the Health Department takes mosquitoes seriously — our area’s most recent concern has actually been the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which has affected dogs and horses in our region.
Butte is home to a Mosquito Control District, which encompasses the area from the Mormon church on Four Mile Road to Father Sheehan Park and adjacent neighborhoods along Blacktail Creek. (Montana has more than 30 mosquito control districts and at least 24 communities control mosquitoes independently.)
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The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department facilitates a contract with JHS, Inc., a Helena-based mosquito control company, to spray in the local district. Spraying will commence shortly with most spraying occurring in the evenings, when the little mosquito buggers come out. The spray, a synthetic pyrethroid, poses an insignificant risk to humans, animals and the environment — as it is, the spray is much dissipated by the time residents arise the next morning.
Homeowners can aid in the control of mosquitoes. We ask that you follow the three D's:
• Drain — Many mosquito problems stem from water-filled containers — this is where they breed. Avoid items like bird baths, small swimming pools or anything that might retain rain water.
• Dress — Wear light-colored clothing that fits loosely. Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark clothing, and they can bite right through tight-fitting clothing. Whenever practical, wear long sleeves and pants.
• Defend – Choose a repellent registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Look for DEET — it is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. We are told that oil of lemon eucalyptus is useful for infants and small children.
If you’re traveling to areas where Zika is a concern, study up.
Locally, it’s beautiful — get outside. But 'tis the mosquito season. Please, while you’re having fun, take precautions.