Here we are in the heart of summer, and the gardens are lush. Daylilies, beebalm and milkweeds are blooming. Tomatoes are thriving in the sun. And for now, the extreme heat and humidity have passed. How wonderful it is to sit outside.
And now, here come the mosquitos! Not just a nuisance, mosquitos can be carriers of many diseases--among them, Zika, Dengue fever and West Nile virus.
While Zika and Dengue fever are spreading northward as the summers grow hotter and wetter, mosquitos carrying these diseases are not in the Chicago area--yet. West Nile virus mosquitos are here already, and spreading northward. Last year, there was a case confirmed in Canada.
This year, mosquitos testing positive for West Nile virus have been reported in Lake County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The first human case of West Nile in Chicago area was reported in May and confirmed by IDPH in June, almost a month earlier than expected.
The good news about West Nile virus is that most people who are bitten by mosquitos will experience no symptoms. Some may feel aches and mild flu-like symptoms which can last for weeks. But for a few people the virus can be very serious, even fatal. 90 people died last year in Illinois. The most vulnerable people are those over 60, and people with fragile immune systems. You can read more about West Nile Virus here.
Since there is no vaccine or cure, prevention is important.
Your local Mosquito Abatement District (which your tax dollars pay for) will treat all street catch basins with larvicide every 7-10 days during the mosquito breeding season. They will also schedule spraying for adult mosquitos. You can find out more about the Des Plaines Valley Mosquito Abatement District which services western Cook County, including Oak Park, here.
In addition, here's what you can do--
wear long sleeve shirts and long pants
try not to go out between dusk and dawn, when mosquitos are most active
repair any holes in screens so mosquitos can't get inside
wear mosquito repellant--Some people swear by Deep Woods Off, but you might want to look for DEET-free alternatives
use citronella candles if you are sitting outside
plant lemon balm, a natural mosquito repellant
remove standing water--check gutters and pools
And yes, you can still find those stretchy mosquito repellant bracelets at Walgreens. They come in many bright summery colors. I'm going to get some this year!