Fighting Back Against Mosquitoes

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RENO, NV - They're hiding out in your community, silently plotting to spread disease, but they're not going to get away with it. This time of year mosquitoes are public enemy number one, and Washoe County is spending thousands to keep their numbers down.

Neighborhoods in the South Meadows weave their way in and out of wetlands. Areas full of stagnant water, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Every few weeks or so, Vector Control checks local waterways to see if mosquito larvae are growing in the area.

"So we will come out to the wetlands and we'll hike through all the areas and we'll count the number of mosquito larvae that we find," said Jeff Jeppson, Vector-Borne Disease Specialist with Washoe Public Health.

Thursday's check revealed 10 to 15 larvae per dip, average for this time of year.

"Once they are airborne, they have the potential to pick-up West Nile Virus and potentially transmit the virus to humans," said Jeppson.

On Thursday, there was an effort to keep those bugs from ever taking flight. Ironically, that effort required a helicopter flight.

"This morning we probably spent about $66,000 to go ahead and treat mosquitoes," said Jim Shaffer, with Washoe County Vector Control.

During flight, the pilot flips a switch which released pellets of pesticide into the wetlands below. A single box of pellets costs about a grand.

"The product that we are using this morning is an Altoside product, biological product that does not hurt humans or animals or the beneficial insects in the water," said Shaffer.

It stunts a mosquito's growth. Preventing it from becoming an adult, the stage where it can bite and spread diseases.

"We want to protect people against West Nile Virus because for some part of the population, it can be a very serious virus that leads to encephalitis," said Phil Ulibarry with Washoe County Health District.

In rare cases those diseases can cause death. Thursday's mosquito abatement however, did more than stop the spread of disease. It reduced mosquito numbers, so residents are less likely to be bit.

"I think anytime that there is mosquito activity, you should be concerned," said Ulibarry.

This process does make a major difference, but it is not a fool proof solution. If you are out during the evening hours remember to wear pants, long sleeves, and bug repellent.