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Taking proper precautions important part of mosquito fight

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With the first actual case of West Nile virus infection reported last week in our area (Cass County), it's time to pay serious attention to the real health risk posed by the annoying, biting insect. The victim, a female over the age of 60, was not hospitalized. In addition, one dead bird in Grand Forks County had been identified with the virus after testing.

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Coinciding with this announcement was an increased mosquito count in traps checked in West Fargo by Cass County Vector Control, prompting a stepped-up assault a week ago that included not only ground spraying but aerial spraying as well, targeting West Fargo and surrounding communities.

This is a good thing and in our estimate the Cass County Vector Control Board, lead by its director Angela Balint, has been doing an outstanding job the past couple of years with preventative and ongoing measures in both mosquito combat and control.

All of this is made easier by the fact that our community has mosquito control funds at their disposal thanks to a 50 cent per month surcharge assessed each resident via their sewer and water bill. The City contracts with Vector Control on an annual basis, paying a set amount up front for larviciding, (treating standing pools of water to prevent mosquito eggs from developing into adult female mosquitoes); as well as paying for each ground spraying application and aerial applications if and as needed.

The surcharge results in approximately $57,000 each year for mosquito control, with any carryover going into the following year's fund. Last year was a good mosquito year in that it was dry and hot and there just weren't many around.

This year's streak of wet weather has caused a more serious mosquito problem, but one that is definitely treatable. However, there is only so much Vector Control can accomplish. Residents also need to help out as much as they can to help alleviate the problem.

The identification of West Nile is a wake-up call about the importance of every individual taking the proper precautions for protection from mosquito bites. Everyone is at risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito, however, people older than 50 are at the highest risk of developing serious complications from the disease.

Statistics from the North Dakota Department of Health reveal that in 2006 there were 137 human cases of West Nile reported, along with four horses, 10 dead birds, and 46 sentinel chickens.

To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, the state health department recommends a number of protective measures: limit outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite; use insect repellent that contains ingredients approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (read all instructions carefully); wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible; eliminate stagnant water and leaf debris in containers around homes where mosquitoes can lay their eggs, i.e. buckets, flowerpots, old tires, wading pools, and birdbaths; keep mosquitoes from entering your home by repairing screens in windows and doors; keep the grass around your home trimmed.

Anyone seeking information about West Nile virus activity can access the Department of Health's West Nile virus Web site at www.ndhealth.gov/wnv.

The site is updated each Wednesday morning for the most complete up-to-date information.

khuber@westfargopioneer.com

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