Here are three tips for preventing mosquito problems:
Maintain screens. The first line of defense around homes is to maintain insect-proof screens on all doors and windows. Properly maintaining screening will help keep mosquitos and houseflies from entering homes.
Eliminate standing water. Mosquito larvae develop in standing water. Eliminating their larval habitats help reduce future adult populations. Almost any item that will hold water (buckets, tarps, boat covers, pet dishes) can breed mosquito populations.
Use repellants. Using personal protection includes wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants and using insect repellents. Follow the directions on repellents closely.
West Nile virus is already active this year. Crows have tested positive for the virus as far south as Maryland. It's unusual to see mosquito-borne virus activity this early in the year. These findings warrant attention.
At the end of last summer, a virus-positive crow was identified in North Carolina, the closest to Georgia the virus has been found. While no one can predict the virus's spread, it's wide-ranging in Europe, west Asia, Africa and the Middle East. So it's not unreasonable to expect it to continue to spread in the United States.
If you find dead birds, especially crows, that have no obvious cause of death, report the finding to the local health department.
Most people infected with West Nile virus have either no symptoms or mild ones, such as fever, headache, body aches, mild skin rash or swollen lymph glands.
A more severe infection, which may lead to encephalitis, includes headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, neurological damage, and paralysis. Nine U.S. people died in 1999 and 2000, so this is not a virus to be disregarded.
(Elmer Gray is a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)