Mosquitoes: An Annapolis Urgent Care Spotlight
With West Nile Virus on the rise, this Annapolis Urgent Care spotlight focuses on mosquitoes: What attracts mosquitoes, how to avoid mosquito bites and why do they like some people more than others?
Maryland’s first case of West Nile Virus has occurred in “a Baltimore suburb” (WBAL report). And according to the Anne Arundel
County Department of Health’s mosquito surveillance report, West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes in both Anne Arundel county and Prince George’s county. For more info on the symptoms of West Nile, we recommended the AA Department of Health’s page here and more West Nile symptoms near the bottom of this report.
The West Nile virus made its first appearance in the U.S. in 1999 and by 2008, the CDC reported 1,356 cases of West Nile and 44 deaths.
Though WNV seems scary, it’s important to remember that Anne Arundel County had nine cases of West Nile Virus in 2012. Five cases in 2011, and three in 2010 and less than 1% of people infected will every have “serious syptoms” such as high fever, seizure, vision loss or paralysis.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus are nicely covered in the graphic to the left but the bottom line is this: When in doubt, check it out. Call your Primary Care or go to an urgent care.
Process of Attraction
The process of attracting a mosquito begins with carbon dioxide. Mosquitos can smell this exhaled gas from up to 50 yards. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer adults to children. Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide.
As they get closer, they begin to respond more to movement–and the smell of your sweat. Mosquitos are attracted by sweat–but they much prefer older sweat over fresh sweat. The older the sweat the better.
The simplest thing is to listen to your mother–and not show any skin. Wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Beware: mosquitoes can sometimes bite through clothing that’s held tight against the skin, especially if the fabric is thin. And, if the fabric is thicker, it will heat you up–and that’s drives mosquitoes crazy!
Avoid areas with standing water and eliminate as much standing water as possible from your property (think kiddie pools, storm drains, old tires, etc).
Avoid FLORAL fragrances. Mosquitoes collect your blood for their eggs but they eat flower nectar. Show up at a party sweating in floral fragrance and you are the buffet.
Mosquitoes LOVE smelly feet. USDA research, which equated the smell with that of Limburger cheese to which mosquitoes are highly attracted, showed that when CO2 was combined with smelly socks proved highly attractive to many common species of disesase-transmitting mosquitoes.
Avoid Beer. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology
Information found the percent of mosquitoes landing on the volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion.
If you have the money, camping and sporting goods stores often sell specially-designed pants and shirts made out of strong yet lightweight material. These clothes offer maximal protection from mosquito bites along with a relatively high level of comfort.
Clothing may also be sprayed with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent for greater protection.
One of the simplest and best ways to avoid mosquitoes is to use a fan. In fact, “Mosquitoes are bad fliers,” Dave Shetlar, an Ohio State University professor of urban landscape entomology. Using ceiling fans on patios or porches or just set up an oscillating fan nearby. When female mosquitoes sense carbon dioxide they usually adopt a zigzagging flight path within the plume to locate its source. If the plume is interrupted by wind, it is harder for them to find you. Even better, they can only fly 1.5 mph — so if you are upwind of a 20 mph breeze, they can’t get to you!
Avon Skin-So-Soft ( IR3535)
Down in Mississippi, this is the preferred method of deterring mosquitoes. The active ingredient in Avon Skin So Soft, is characterized by the EPA as a “biopesticide repellent,” meaning it is in fact derived from natural materials. A 2002 study found this compound protects against mosquitoes for only about 23 minutes.
“Of the products we tested, the soybean oil-based repellent was able to protect from mosquito bites for about 1.5 hours,”. He and fellow researchers found other oils — citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, and geranium — provide short-lived protection at best.
Oil of eucalyptus products, however, may offer longer-lasting protection, preliminary studies show. Endorsed by the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus is available under the Repel brand name and offers protection similar to low concentrations of DEET. Lemon eucalyptus is safe for children older than 3 years.
Bug Zappers–Forget Them!
An entomology professor from the University of Delaware published a study in 1996 showing that out of nearly 14,000 insects killed by six zappers in one summer, only 31 were biting fliers, Popular Mechanics reported. Plus, mosquitoes are attracted to dim light, so they may fly toward the zapper initially, but they’ll turn away when they get too close–and they will probably then find you.
At least 10 studies in the past 15 years have unanimously denounced ultrasonic devices as having no repellency value whatsoever. Should be the end of story but if people are still buying, they’ll still make them. Specifically, a pioneering study testing five different ultrasonic devices against four mosquito species convincingly demonstrated that ultrasound in the 20-70 kHz range used by these devices had no effect on reorienting flight by female mosquitoes either toward or away from human subjects. Sound generators were also ineffective in repelling mosquitoes.
Mosquito traps, a relatively new product, may be the answer. They work by emitting substances that biting mosquitoes find attractive — such as carbon dioxide, heat, moisture, and other mosquito-friendly byproducts. They attract, then trap or kill female mosquitoes. According to the American Mosquito Control Association, “Please be cautioned against putting too much faith in traps as your sole means of control. These traps represent an evolving technology that is a most welcome addition to our mosquito control armamentarium. Their potential is great, but shouldn’t be overestimated.”
What is the BEST Protection?
Aside for employing all of the measures described above, when possible, DEET remains the overwhelmingly most proven and most reliable deterrent. 20% is usually an adequate amount–but higher percentages are necessary to avoid ticks, which as we know in Annapolis, is a major problem.
Why Me? (Why are some people more likely to get bitten)
Scientist have found that mosquitoes most certainly do like some people better than others. “One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes,” reports Jerry
Butler, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida. Scientists now know that genetics account for a 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites
On the other hand, occasionally you’ll find someone that claims “mosquitoes don’t like me!” That person is probably secreting 1-methypiperzine which totally blocks a mosquitoes’ ability to smell. So how do these pests find us? Will they pick you or your friend? Find out! How can you dodge them if you aren’t one of the lucky few secreting 1-methypiperzine?
How Risky Are Mosquito Bites?
The big killer, at least globally is malaria. Malaria kills over million people every year–which earns mosquitoes their label as the most dangerous “animal” on Earth. In fact, they are one of the main reasons we at Evolve Direct Primary Care strongly encourage you to visit our Traveler’s Health Clinic if you are traveling out of the country.
More Fun Mosquito Facts (from MegaCatch)
- Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly.”
- Only female mosquitoes bite people. She needs the protein in blood to help her eggs develop.
- Mosquitoes don’t have teeth. The females “bite” with a long, pointed mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the serrated proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then draw blood through one of two tubes.
- A mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood. Don’t worry, though.
- It would take about 1.2 million bites to drain all the blood from your body.
- Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time.
- Mosquitoes spend their first 10 days in water and need at least 1 inch.
- Mosquitoes hibernate. They are cold-blooded and prefer temperatures over 80 degrees. At temperatures less than 50 degrees, they shut down for the winter.
- The adult females of some species find holes where they wait for warmer weather, while others lay their eggs in freezing water and die. The eggs keep until the temperatures rise, and they can hatch.
- The average mosquito lifespan is less than two months.
- Males have the shortest lives, usually 10 days
- females can live about six to eight weeks, under ideal conditions.
- Male mosquitoes locate females by the sound of their wings. Females can beat their wings up to 500 times per second.
- Sweat helps mosquitoes choose their victims. Our skin produces more than 340 chemical odors. They are fond of octenol, a chemical released in sweat, as well as cholesterol, folic acid, certain bacteria, skin lotions, and perfume.
- Body heat marks the target. Mosquitoes use heat sensors around their mouthparts to detect the warmth of your body – actually, the blood inside it – then land on you and locate the best capillaries for tapping.
- Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. That makes them about 210 million years old. They’ve been mentioned throughout history, including in the works of Aristotle around 300 B.C. and in writings by Sidonius Apollinaris in 467 B.C.
- The bumps from mosquito bites are caused by saliva. While one tube in the proboscis draws blood, a second pumps in saliva containing a mild painkiller and an anti-coagulant.
- Mosquitoes are considered the deadliest “animal” in the world. The Anopheles mosquito, in particular, is dangerous because it transmits malaria, which kills more than one million people every year, primarily in Africa.
- Alexander the Great is believed to have died of malaria in 323 B.C.
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