Doña Ana County

Mosquito control benefits the public health

Mosquito control benefits the public health

Each summer in Doña Ana County, the proliferation of mosquitoes follows the summer rains and lasts into the autumn season. It used to be that mosquito populations abated in winter, but heartier varieties of mosquitoes now are found in the region that survive through the winter months and continue to bite.

With the ever-increasing likelihood that West Nile Virus will soon be found in Doña Ana County, it is prudent for every member of the community to begin taking sustainable precautions to mitigate mosquito populations. Doña Ana County already has seen instances of equine encephalitis in the south valley, so the time to act is now.

The county owns and operates three vector-control trucks that are equipped with spraying equipment. These trucks are regularly sent out in the predawn hours to places where mosquitoes are most likely to breed. Spraying, however, is only one component of a successful control program. Vector control also can provide mosquito-larva-eating fish to private residents whose land is marshy or contains large bodies of standing water. These fish each consume five times their own weight in mosquito larva each day.

The spray and the fish are the second-best tools available to government. The best tool is an informed and motivated population whose members will, individually, address problem areas on their properties. Working together, we can greatly reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses that affect, wildlife, livestock and – most importantly – humans in Doña Ana County.

Doña Ana County’s Vector Control unit has some helpful tips on how to mitigate these flying, biting, blood-sucking nuisances.

Mosquitoes reproduce and their larvae mature in standing water. Removing unnecessary standing water inhibits opportunities for mosquitoes to lay eggs near your home. Empty standing water in old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys and concave objects that can hold water.

Periodically replacing containers with fresh water can eliminate the full development of mosquito larvae. Circulate and treat water in swimming pools. Change water troughs every three days and birdbaths, fountains, dog dishes, wading pools, rain barrels and potted plant trays at least once a week. Yards, pastures, parks and fields that are over-irrigated are large-scale breeding sites for mosquitoes.

While mosquito-borne disease warnings are in effect, stay indoors during the evening when mosquitoes are most active. When ventilating your home, make sure windows and door screens are bug tight. Replacing outdoor lights with yellow lights will help repel bugs.

You may have heard that dead birds are a sure sign of West Nile virus, but that is only partially true. Most birds are carriers of the virus, but they are not affected by it and don’t become ill. Dead birds for which to be on the look-out include crows, ravens, blue jays and hawks. If you see a dead bird of this type that has no apparent injuries, call Vector Control at once, so that the bird can be retrieved and tested.

Doña Ana County already is involved in a comprehensive testing program by which mosquitoes are trapped weekly from different sites around the county and sent to a state lab for evaluation. This testing allows the county to identify areas where problems may occur and to prioritize abatement procedures accordingly. Still, abatement assistance from the public is critical, and prompt reports of dead birds that are susceptible to the virus will help the county in its efforts.

For more information, call the county’s Vector Control Division at (505) 526-8150. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request the Vector Control Office extension.