Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- In observance of National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is reminding South Carolinians how to reduce their risk from the serious diseases mosquitoes can carry.
"The week of June 24 is an opportunity for us to share valuable information with the public about the significance of mosquitoes in their daily lives and the important service provided by mosquito control workers throughout our state," said Sue Ferguson, an environmental health manager with DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "Everyone can take part in local mosquito prevention and control efforts by doing some basic cleaning activities around their home.
"Removing items from your yard that collect water, cleaning roof gutters and filling in low-lying areas will help prevent mosquitoes from breeding and allow outdoor activities such as gardening, barbecues and outdoor sports to be safer and more enjoyable," she said.
According to Ferguson, mosquito populations can emerge from very small amounts of water, if that water is allowed to stagnate.
Tips to help you make your yard safer and more pleasant this summer include:
Remove any buckets, cups, bottles, flowerpots, plastic bags, tires or any water-holding containers that might have accumulated outside.
Do not allow water to stagnate in low-lying areas of the yard, in boats or on tarps that cover yard items such as boats, swimming pools, grills and woodpiles.
Keep birdbaths and pet bowls clean. Flush with clear water and clean out at least once a week.
Clean fallen leaves and other debris out of roof gutters and spouting.
Make sure outdoor trash cans have tight-fitting lids. If lids are not available, drill holes in the bottom of the can.
Make sure screens on windows and doors are in good repair.
Stock ornamental ponds with minnows or use appropriately labeled products to control mosquito larvae.
Trim and maintain shrubs and grass.
"It is important to learn how to avoid mosquito bites to reduce our chances of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases, as well as to conduct mosquito prevention and control efforts year-round, especially during spring, summer and fall," said Chris Evans, a Ph.D. entomologist with DHEC's Bureau of Laboratories. "Mosquitoes become infected with a virus when they feed on infected birds. They then transmit the virus, during feeding, to humans and animals."
In addition to preventing mosquitoes from breeding, Evans advises personal protection measures to avoid mosquito bites:
Stay inside at dawn, dusk and early evening when mosquitoes are most active.
If you must be outside during these times, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Use appropriate insect repellents according to label directions.
"Dogs and horses can also become infected with mosquito-borne diseases," said Stephanie Cox, DVM, a veterinary epidemiologist with DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. "Consult your veterinarian to learn more about appropriate protection for your animals, such as heartworm testing and preventive medicine for dogs, and vaccination against West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses for horses."
For more information on mosquitoes, including recommended repellents, see DHEC's website.