Mosquitoes cause health emergency in 10 counties - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Mosquitoes cause health emergency in 10 counties

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By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The South Health District of Georgia made a Declaration of Health Emergency for ten South Georgia counties due to the drastic increase in mosquito populations.  

The counties affected are Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner.  In Lowndes County, mosquitoes increased more than eight-thousand percent in the past weeks.

Dr. Mark Blackmore, a Professor of Biology at Valdosta State University, says, "Our averages have gone from somewhere around 10 or 20 three weeks ago, up to 800 or 900 per trap."

Blackmore, along with students from the Biology Department, survey the mosquito populations for Lowndes County.  When asked why the populations have peaked so quickly, Dr. Blackmore says, "There are a lot of areas where mosquito eggs that have just been lying dormant that have now been flooded, and that's why we've seen a big increase."

Last month's heavy rainfall left standing water, which is breeding ground for mosquitoes.  The swelling populations bring greater threats of mosquito-born viruses such as West Nile Virus and Easter Equine Encephalitis Virus, which affects both horses and humans.

"These are diseases that we have seen in the past few years in our area, even with lower mosquito populations," says Dr. Lynne Feldman, District Health Director. 

Both viruses cause infections that affect the brain tissues, and can be deadly.  Prevention methods may sound simple, but health officials say they're also affective.

"If you have to be outside, wear a long-sleeved shirt--it's still possible to do that.  Make sure you empty out the containers in your yard, so that you're not breeding your own mosquitoes," says Dr. Feldman. 

The perfect breeding conditions indicate that the mosquitoes will not disappear quickly, making self-protection more important than any time in recent years.

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