‘Chikungunya’ Mosquito Virus Appears in NC

The first known case of the mosquito-borne illness named the “chikungunya” virus, has appeared in North Carolina this past Thursday, according to State health officials’ reports. The virus was found in a state resident that had recently visited the Caribbean.

A common species of mosquito in North Carolina, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is purported to be the most likely candidate to transmit the disease. However, there have been no documented cases of the virus becoming acquired anywhere within the States, including North Carolina. Only the few 27 cases in the U.S. as of now all were found in individuals that had recently returned from the Caribbean area.

Orange County Community Health Supervisor, Judy Butler, explains how this virus can be spread:

“We have a lot of people that travel in Orange County, and people that have been to the Caribbean and other parts of the world where it exists,” says Butler. “If they are bitten by an infected mosquito while they are there, and then they come back to Orange County, they can develop illness. If they are bitten by one of our mosquitoes here, then it becomes infected, then it can turn around and bite someone else.”

Butler says North Carolina residents that have recently traveled to the Caribbean or other areas that have the illness need to alert their physicians immediately if they begin to experience the symptoms of virus following the bite. Though hardly fatal, the symptoms include a fever and extreme pains in the hands and feet.

Butler also says the best ways to prevent any risk of spreading the virus or further breeding of the Asian tiger mosquitoes are actually the most obvious ones:

“Basically, we all need to take measures to avoid mosquito bites as much as we can,” says Butler. “Mosquito bite prevention is the best thing you can do.”

Butler says this includes removing or keeping an eye on any source of standing water, wearing long sleeves and long pants in the times in which mosquitoes are most likely to bite, wearing appropriate repellent, and to properly screen doors and windows.


Mosquito Population Likely To Rise After Rainfall

HILLSBOROUGH – While Sunday’s heavy rains were a major disruption for many in Chapel Hill, one local community is pleased by the change in the weather: mosquitoes.

Charles Apperson, professor emeritus of entomology at N.C.State, says that mosquito eggs need water to hatch and these eggs may already be planted all around.

“Mosquitoes can lay eggs that are dormant and wait to be flooded,” Apperson says. “When you flood those areas and submerge eggs, they hatch.”

Apperson says one very effective way of cutting down on mosquito populations after a rainstorm is to get rid of standing water around the home.

“The ones that are produced around our homes, the Asian Tiger Mosquito, can go through their life cycle in five-to-seven days,” Apperson says. “So, after a rain, go around the yard and empty out everything you can that you find that contains water.”

Stacy Shelp, public information officer for the Orange County Health Department, adds that bacterial insecticides known as “dunks” can be used in hard-to-drain places like flower pots or gutters that still contain standing water.

“The good thing about those is that they are bacteria so they don’t harm fish or birds or other wildlife,” Shelp says. “They last about 30 days to control the mosquito larvae.”

Apperson says that even if someone totally clears a yard of water for mosquitoes to hatch in, if a neighbor does not do the same, mosquitoes that hatch over there can still spread to other yards and homes.

While the Orange County Health Department is urging residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito infestations, Apperson says that any health risk from mosquitoes is unlikely.

“These mosquito transmitted diseases are very rare diseases,” Apperson says. “Mosquitoes are mainly a nuisance.”

Apperson cautions that this does not mean residents should be negligent when clearing their yards of mosquitoes.

“It’s a numbers game,” Apperson says. “The more people that are bitten, the odds increase that someone will be bitten by a mosquito that contains a pathogen.”

Orange County officials like Shelp point out that these mosquito prevention tips should be put into place after all rainstorms, not just the flood-inducing ones seen last week.