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Insects bring threat

Smack!
You squash the tiny insect as it bites your leg. But has the damage already been done?
Aside from the bite site that will itch for days, the threat of disease spread by mosquitoes remains a concern in Lincoln County.
Mosquitoes can carry two diseases in this area — eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile Virus. While EEE has not been reported in Lincoln County, WNV was found in birds and horses in 2003.
“We had no human cases last year but about every bird type had it,” said Christine Helton, communicable disease nurse with the Lincoln County Health Department.
The virus was found in humans, birds and animals across the state.
Individuals can have mild or severe infections from the virus.
A mild infection causes West Nile fever and often is not detected. Symptoms include headache, rash, nausea, vomiting and eye pain.
Approximately one in 150 infections will result in severe neurological disease according to the Center for Disease Control. Hospitalized patients often display fever, weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms and a change in mental status.
Treatment often includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids and respiratory support.
The most important step to take with WNV is prevention.
“Since we have been infected in the last year or so it’s important that people take more precautions around their homes,” said Amy Chilcote, Cooperative Extension agent.
Chilcote said there are ways to fight the bite: apply insect repellent, wear long sleeves, pants and socks outdoors and be aware of peak mosquito hours, dusk to dawn.
Mosquito-proofing your home is also important. Standing water serves as a breeding ground for the insects and should be drained. Keep screens on doors and windows in good condition.
The city of Lincolnton has battled the pesky insects for years.
Each spring trucks scan neighborhoods spraying ‘Smoke-a-cide.’ Spraying is usually done in the late afternoons and evenings — peak mosquito hours.
There is no data giving a success rate, but Steve Peeler, director of public works and utilities, has heard favorable comments.
“We get phone calls saying it has helped,” he said.
The spraying — which has been done in the city for more than 40 years — begins when temperatures consistently remain in the 70s.
Helton has no predictions about the coming mosquito season but remains hopeful that the amount of snowfall this year could ward off the pests.
“When you have a cold winter it tends to kill insect eggs that hide in the ground and decreases the bugs that you have over the summer.”by Diane Turbyfill

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