Beat the Bite! HCPH Reminds Residents Mosquito Season is Here

Take simple steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne illness

HOUSTON – With temperatures rising, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) reminds residents that mosquito season is upon us. While mosquitoes are present yearround, their peak activity coincides with warmer weather, typically from May through October. This increases the chance of mosquito-borne disease transmission.

Out of the 56 mosquito species in Harris County, only a few can transmit viruses like West Nile, Saint Louis encephalitis, chikungunya, dengue, and Zika.

HCPH’s Mosquito and Vector Control Division (MVCD) is committed to safeguarding residents from mosquito-borne diseases throughout the year.

They achieve this through:

•Countywide mosquito trapping

•Testing mosquito pools for viruses

•Treatment in neighborhoods where a virus is detected

Interactive maps detailing mosquito-borne disease activity, services, and proposed treatment locations are available at hcphtx.org/mc.

“While the past two years saw a relatively low number of mosquito samples testing positive for diseases compared to previous years,” said MVCD Director Maximea “Max” Vigilant, “we must remember that sudden surges in mosquito-borne viruses can still occur and pose a threat to vulnerable populations, especially young children, older adults, and people who are immunocompromised.”

In 2023, Harris County, including the City of Houston, reported 38 human cases of mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus. Thirty-six of the total cases were travel-related (34 malaria and 2 dengue). The two West Nile virus case were local.

Thankfully, Harris County had no confirmed deaths linked to mosquito-borne illnesses last year. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported six human deaths in the state due to mosquito-borne disease (specifically West Nile virus).

“Our surveillance and testing haven’t detected any positive mosquito samples so far in 2024,” Dr. Vigilant said. “However, that’s likely to change as we enter peak mosquito breeding season. We urge everyone to take simple steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from mosquito bites. This includes eliminating stagnant water around your home and using EPA-registered mosquito repellents according to the instructions.”

KNOW THE 3 Ts: TIP, TOSS, TAKE ACTION

As temperatures rise, so do mosquito populations. HCPH wants residents to remember the 3 Ts to mosquito control – “Tip, Toss, Take Action.”

Tip

Heavy rains during the summer months in the Houston region can create a “perfect storm” for mosquitoes to breed. Follow these simple tips to prevent mosquito breeding sites around your home, especially right after a weather event:

•Tip or empty standing water from pet bowls, flowerpots, tires, buckets, and other containers.

•If you have a birdbath, change its water every three to five days.

Toss

Mosquitoes can also breed in small spots where stagnant water might be hidden from the human eye. Practice the following tips to reduce mosquito breeding in those covered spots:

•Toss out debris, trash, and other unwanted items around your home.

•Clean out clogged rain gutters.

•Keep outdoor trash bins closed and avoid overfilling them.

•Do not sweep lawn clippings, leaves, or litter into storm drains, as this will prevent water from flowing, creating ideal mosquito-breeding sites.

•Minimize opportunities for standing water to accumulate by emptying stagnant water from flower pots, buckets, tires, or other water-collecting objects.

Take action

There are also several ways to take action and reduce mosquito populations.

•When using mosquito repellent, keep these points in mind:

•Use as directed by the label instructions on the product.

•Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months.

•Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years of age.

•Apply an EPA-registered repellent on yourself and your loved ones when outdoors.

•When possible, wear long sleeves, pants, and socks.

•Treat standing water with larvicides in areas where water cannot be covered, emptied, or removed and will not be used for drinking. Larvicides are a type of pesticide that kills mosquitoes in their early stages of development (larvae) before they become biting adults. They are sold as liquid, tablets, pellets, granules, or briquettes and are available in most hardware stores. Larvicides are safe to use for the environment. Follow the instructions of the particular larvicide product you are using.

•Make sure to completely turn off outdoor faucets to prevent leaks; fix any faucets that are constantly leaking.

•Keep tight-fitting screens on doors and windows. For other mosquito prevention tips and resources, visit hcphtx.org/mc.

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