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Eliminating the bite.

FIRST referred to as "empis" by Aristotle in his 300 B.C. tome "Historia Animalium," the mosquito has been bugging mankind for a long, long time.

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center has classified about 200 species of mosquitoes in the United States, and 48 of them are biters.

Although most mosquitoes are just annoying, some can transmit such serious diseases as malaria, encephalitis and yellow fever to humans, animals and birds.

West Nile virus--commonly found in Africa, the Middle East, western Asia and the Mediterranean--is another potentially serious mosquito-borne illness.

It first emerged in the New York City area in 1999 and has quickly spread westward across North America. As of last year, West Nile virus has been detected in all 48 U.S. continental States.

Even in areas where West Nile virus has been documented, officials at the Centers for Disease Control said the risk of contracting the virus is statistically low.

Sgt. Gina Egan, noncommissioned officer in charge of environmental health at Martin Army Community Hospital at Fort Benning, Ga., confirmed there have been no cases of West Nile virus in humans at that installation.

"So far this season we have not found one mosquito, bird or animal with the West Nile virus," she said.

Symptoms of West Nile infection usually occur after a three-to-15-day incubation period. People infected with West Nile experience flu-like symptoms, which can include fever, headache and body aches.

In a very few number of cases, particularly among the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, the disease is more serious and causes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain affecting the central nervous system.

Most people who get the illness recover from it. In severe cases, hospitalization is required. CDC officials said less than 1 percent of those bitten by an infected mosquito develop severe symptoms.

Gregg Mohler, construction inspector for the engineering division of Fort Benning's Directorate of Public Works, said the safest and most cost-effective way to control mosquitoes is to eliminate their breeding sites.

"People are their own worst enemies when it comes to keeping mosquitoes under control," he said. "Any unchlorinated standing water is a potential breeding site. The chlorine in a glass of tap water dissipates within 24 hours."

Kiddie wading pools become mosquito-breeding site within 24 to 48 hours, if they're not emptied. Simply emptying any container that holds standing water will greatly reduce the chances of getting bitten.

"Don't water around the house in the evening," Mr. Mohler said. "lt creates a water source for roaches, and the mosquitoes will breed in the nooks and crannies."

U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine officials said only female mosquitoes are capable of biting, and they usually prefer to bite horses, cattle, smaller mammals and birds.

The females are attracted to exhaled carbon dioxide, and they re influenced by temperature, moisture, smell, color and movement, said Erin Menefee, environmental specialist for the DPW Environmental Division.

Army Environmental Health Services personnel trap and count mosquitoes to identify potential carriers of the virus, she said. They collect the mosquitoes every week and send them to the USACHPPM Entomological Sciences Division at Fort Meade, Md., for analysis.

"We don't treat areas of Fort Benning with insecticide fog because of the number of people with allergies who would be exposed to the fog," Mr. Mohler said. "Only once in 15 years did we do it at Fort Benning, because fogging only kills the adult mosquitoes when they're flying."

Instead, people should wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, or use a mosquito repellent containing DEET or permethrin, he said.

In addition to collecting information about mosquito populations and habitats through weekly trap testing, the surveillance of dead birds has been helpful in tracking the spread of the virus across the country, Mr. Mohler added.

"Any type of predatory bird, such as an owl or hawk, that just drops down dead is suspect," he said.

Ms. Donna Hyatt works for the Fort Benning "Bayonet."
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Author:Hyatt, Donna
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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