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Blog | December 2012

Looking back on 2012 and West Nile Virus

The end of every year brings an onslaught of lists looking back on the past 12 months. The best news stories, the best videos, the best couples, etc. all those lists and more. In a recent list of the Biggest Health Stories of 2012, Fox News placed West Nile in the number 13 spot. With over 5,000 confirmed cases and 228 deaths, it was the worst year for the virus since 2003 (according to MedPage Today, there was excessive testing in 2003 which boosted that year’s numbers).

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been researching the surge of cases this year and looking for trends or reasons behind the numbers. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer. As Marc Fischer, a medical officer for the CDC says “there’s no single or specific factor that we can point to as to why, or if, a year is going to have high or low activity.” Source.

West Nile is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes most commonly get the virus from birds, but can get it from other vertebrate. Because it’s a cycle that changes from location to location, studies are most effective when done locally. What elevated the spread of West Nile in Texas will be different than what happened in Maine for instance.

Fischer and his team have studied the virus to check for mutations that may have made the virus stronger, resulting in greater symptoms and confirmed cases (most people with West Nile will never display symptoms). The flu, for example, is known to continually mutate. There is no evidence to suggest the virus is changing but will be monitored over several years.

In short, questions regarding West Nile and why 2012 was such a bad year for the virus remain unanswered. We can’t properly guess what 2013 will bring, so it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites. And what is the best way to avoid mosquito bites? To get rid of mosquitoes!

At Mosquito Squad, we suggest the 5 Ts of mosquito control for yards. They center on the idea of getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes breed and like to harbor: Tip, Toss, Turnover, Remove Tarps and Treat.

Tip over any objects like kids’ toys and watering cans. Toss out any leftover yard debris like clippings and leaves that can puddle water inside. Turnover dog dishes and plant saucers once a week to make sure mosquitoes don’t have a chance to breed. Tarps hold water so make sure they are tight. And lastly treat. At Mosquito Squad, we provide effective mosquito control with our barrier spray service. Our technicians spray the vegetation where mosquitoes feed and harbor, creating a protective barrier around our clients’ property. We come back every 21 days to keep families and their guests safe from mosquitoes.

If you are interested in learning more about Mosquito Squad, please contact your local office.

Diet and Cookbook Used to Treat Chronic Lyme

I love reading the stories of men and women who, when put in a difficult situation, not only make the best of it, but try to help others. Such is the case of Laura Piazza. Laura Piazza, a professional photographer, was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She began researching and learning about the illness when she came across the idea of the Lyme Inflammation Diet as developed by Dr. Kenneth Singleton. From there, her mother and she joined forces to create Recipes for Repair, a cookbook that aims to help men and women with chronic Lyme disease.

The Lyme Inflammation Diet® aims to decrease inflammation that often occurs with Lyme through choosing and eating nutritious foods. It is made up of four phases where different foods are introduced back into the system. When Laura started the diet she asked her mother, Gail, for help creating healthy, yet delicious meals that followed Dr. Singleton’s plan. A home economics consultant and recipe developer, Gail created filling and yummy meals that made her daughter feel better. “By eliminating foods that I’m sensitive to, I’ve seen some symptoms get better and others go away completely,” says Laura “While no diet can cure a chronic illness, it can certainly help by bringing down the inflammation levels in your body.” Source.

She and Laura then decided to take it to the next step and create a cookbook to help those suffering from Lyme disease. Laura and Gail worked alongside Dr. Singleton and his wife to create Recipes for Repair: A Lyme Disease Cookbook.

I first learned of this cookbook through a book review that sparked my interest (you know how we are always learning about tick-borne diseases at Mosquito Squad). I’ll be honest and didn’t think I would find anything I liked in the 8 free recipes they offer on their website, but I was wrong. Everything looks delicious and not that difficult or time-consuming to make (if it takes over an hour, I’m not making it). And the reviews are great! Here are just a few things people are saying:

“My FAVORITE cookbook which has helped me change my diet and feel better!”

“This book is informative and easy to process. The recipes look and taste delicious. These are meals you are able to serve to your entire family and they wouldn’t know they were on any type of diet!”

“I noticed after just a week that I felt better. And now, my GI problems have subsided, I don’t itch intensely all over and my joint pain has decreased so much.”

You can read more about Recipes for Repair and its authors on their website at

Protecting Fiddo from Fleas and Ticks Year Round

The beginning of every month I give my dog Wiley his heartworm medication as well as a topical flea and tick medication. When I first got the splendid animal, I remember asking my veterinarian about when I needed to use flea and tick medicine. Particularly, I wanted to know if I needed to use it all year round. My vet told me that it was recommended in places like Virginia that dogs are protected year round from nuisance bugs.

Fleas are not only annoying and itchy to dogs, but can also cause longer term damage. Some dogs scratch so hard they have permanent fur loss and scarring in certain places. Ticks also transmit diseases like erlichiosis and Lyme disease. Unfortunately many pet owners think that fleas and ticks are only active in the spring and summer months, which isn’t the case.

Both fleas and ticks can live all year round depending on the weather. Both need a good freeze before they can be noted as inactive. With some parts of the country seeing record highs, fleas and ticks could be on the move. When the winter comes to a close, ticks become active in temperatures over 40 degrees. Fleas usually die off outdoors in the fall and winter months, but can live indoors year round.

The FDA regulates the production of flea and tick medicines and provides these tips for using the products:

  • Read the label carefully.
  • Apply exactly as recommended.
  • Keep pets away from each other until the product dries (so they don’t accidentally ingest some).
  • Monitor for side effects.
  • Ask your vet before applying on older pets
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after applying
  • If your dog shows any side effects, wash your dog with mild soap and water
  • Don’t use on puppies or kittens.
    For more information, check out the FDA’s page on flea and tick medication

Mosquito Experiment to End Dengue Fever

Key West, the most southern tip of the continental U.S., is one step closer to experimenting with genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever. And some residents and tourists don’t like it.

Dengue fever is a disease transmitted by the mosquito specie Aedes aegypti and is more common in tropical locations. Victims of the disease, also known as breakbone fever, display symptoms such as fever, headache, rashes and severe muscle and joint pain. It was thought to be eradicated in the Keys until 93 new cases emerged in 2009 and 2010 (source).

As a result of the influx of new dengue cases, mosquito control officials along with Oxitec, a British company, have filed a trial with the FDA to hopefully help with the problem. In the experiment, genetically modified male Aedes aegypti would be released in Key West to mate with females. The resulting eggs, however, would be unable to reach maturity due to a birth defect the male would pass on. They hope that after a few generations the mosquito specie would die off and eradicate the risk of dengue fever.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have not only caused illness in Key West, but they are also a huge cost. They are a strong mosquito specie that is harder to kill with pesticides. Instead, Key West inspectors go door-to-door getting rid of standing water where they are known to breed. This process is both time-consuming and expensive, costing the district $1 million a year. “’Unfortunately, control of Aedes aegypti is a never-ending job,’ said Larry Hriber, the mosquito control district’s research director.” Source.

Key West residents and tourists alike are against the use of genetically modified mosquitoes. They worry that there hasn’t been enough background research done and that the modified material may somehow be passed on to humans or the ecosystem. One local real estate agent, Mila de Mier, posted a petition on to fight the test and has received more than 115,000 signatures. “We are dependent here on our tourists, and people from all over the country have been sending the message,” says de Mier (source).

It may be years before the FDA rules on the whether or not Key West will be able to deploy the mosquito control test. At Mosquito Squad, we use effective mosquito control solutions to protect our clients against the annoyance of mosquitoes and the dangerous diseases they may carry. If you have questions about how to protect your property, please contact your local Mosquito Squad office.

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* Tick control not available in MI without a license