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Chuck, I’m sick and tired of summer mosquitoes! And I detest the smell and stickiness of mosquito repellents anytime I just want to enjoy an evening sunset or activity. Any natural ways to ward off those miniature vampire bats? – Aaron E., Minnesota

Mosquitoes are a very big health issue right now. And with heavy downpours and hot weather across the country, experts are saying to prepare for the worst.

Before I discuss some natural ways to repel mosquitoes, let me give you a few reasons to use the heavy artillery against them.

It’s not just large infestations of mosquitoes that are proliferating across the American landscape, but also the diseases that they carry.

Here’s a sample from the news from just this past week:

  • Because of heavy rains, South Florida is bracing itself for some of its heaviest infestations of mosquitoes in years, according to several Florida news sources.
  • Many mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus in Prince William County, Va., according to NBC4 in Washington.
  • WNV also has been discovered in mosquitoes across the state of Georgia, according to WAND-TV.
  • Lincolnwood, Ill., discovered its first mosquito carrying WNV, according to Lincolnwood Review.
  • A mosquito bearing WNV was among those caught in a trap in Addison County, Vt., according to NPR.
  • Rockland County, N.Y., just discovered its second mosquito sample with WNV.
  • Massachusetts officials have found WNV in at least nine communities, according to New England Cable News.
  • Longmont, Colo., sprayed a second round of citywide mosquito killer to fight WNV after the virus was “found in a high number of mosquito pools,” according to the ABC affiliate in Denver.
  • And out in California, mosquitoes in the Nuevo area and San Jacinto, as well as one squirrel in Big Bear, have tested positive for WNV. And “a dead crow found in Banning and a chicken in the San Jacinto Wildlife Area were found to have antibodies for the virus,” according to The Press-Enterprise.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, “as of July 16, 2013, 29 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes. A total of 23 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including three deaths, have been reported to CDC. Of these, ten (43 percent) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 13 (57 percent) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.”
  • So far in this year alone, cases of WNV in humans have been discovered in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi and Tennessee, according to the CDC.

Keep in mind that these are known or reported cases, not those infected.

David Zazra, communications manager for the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, explained to Lincolnwood Review that the symptoms of WNV are very similar to flu-like symptoms – including fever, aches and pains – so “the disease is tremendously under-reported.” That is why “in the summer, people with the flu should always see a doctor.”

But here’s where it gets tricky.

According to the CDC, most people infected with WNV “will have no symptoms.” The CDC adds: “About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.”

And there is more than WNV to think about when it comes to those pesky night vultures. The genus of mosquitoes that particularly bears the disease is culex, and its many species are able to transmit other diseases, too, such as St. Louis encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, avian malaria and filariasis.

Nevertheless, when the CDC says WNV alone is “most often spread to people from the bite of an infected mosquito,” it’s time to quit being a hero or an anti-spray guy. A little smelly, sticky insect repellant is a small price to pay for protection from what is potentially a debilitating and even deadly disease.

According to Dr. Alison Ansher, director of the Prince William Health District, “since most of the mosquito species that residents need to control breed in standing water within a few hundred feet of their homes, control measures around the home are the most effective way to prevent mosquito breeding and to reduce the risk from bites.”

One fieldworker for the state of Georgia said spare tires with sitting water from rains can be a huge problem, as they are “some of dangerous mosquitoes’ favorite homes.”

Zazra said the container of water “can be as small as a bottle cap.” He added, “Artificial containers are especially attractive to the culex mosquito.”

Outside of the obvious – such as avoiding swampy, marshy areas, where mosquitoes congregate – the Prince William Health District gave NBC4 in Washington some sound advice to reduce exposure to mosquitoes, no matter where you live in the country:

  • “Wear long, loose and light-colored clothing.
  • “Use insect repellent products with no more than 50 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children. Follow label instructions when using insect repellents.
  • “Turn over or remove containers in your yard where any water may collect, such as old tires, potted plant trays, buckets and toys.
  • “Eliminate any standing water in yards or on tarps or flat roofs.
  • “Chlorinate or clean out birdbaths and wading pools every three to five days.
  • “Clean roof gutters and downspout screens regularly. Mosquitoes breed and feed in standing water in roof gutters.”

Next week, I will discuss why some people are more prone than others to be bitten by mosquitoes, as well as offer some natural ways to ward off those pesky critters.

Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.

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