SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the state will spend $105,000 on the emergency purchase of larvicide to help control mosquitoes in the Chicago suburbs that recently experienced severe flooding along the Des Plaines River.
“After heavy flooding, typically huge numbers of biting mosquitoes are produced and can be disruptive to flood cleanup activities and other community functions,” the Governor said. “We need to provide whatever assistance possible so communities can quickly and safely recover from the flood.”
The larvicide will be bought by the state and provided to local health departments and municipalities in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties.
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said these “floodwater” mosquitoes generally are not disease carriers, but can be an extreme nuisance and are expected to hatch two to three weeks after the flooding ends. As the floodwaters recede, he explained, evaporation and drainage will create smaller pools of stagnant water where the mosquitoes like to breed.
The larvicide, which is spread in either a granular or briquette form, destroys mosquito larvae in the water pools.
The mosquitoes can fly up to 20 miles from where they emerge, particularly along prevailing winds, and are attracted to people by carbon dioxide and perspiration. They have a peak biting time of just after sunset and again just before dawn, but will feed anytime in or near wooded areas if disturbed.
In the coming weeks, the pools of water left by the flood also may give rise to large numbers of the northern house mosquito, which are the primary carrier of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. These mosquitoes normally begin to spread disease in the state in mid-to-late July and early August. Last year, Illinois recorded 54 cases of West Nile disease and one death and, in 2002, led the nation with 884 cases and 66 deaths.
The emergency larvicide help is in addition to $2.3 million in grants Blagojevich recently awarded to local health departments throughout the state to assist with the detection and control of West Nile virus. Most of that funding came from a special 50-cent fee increase on new tires enacted last year to create a public health emergency fund.
The state’s surveillance for West Nile virus began May 1 and, so far, West Nile positive birds have been identified in three counties – Adams, Champaign and DuPage. DuPage County also has detected two pools of mosquitoes with West Nile virus.
Dr. Whitaker said people can protect themselves from mosquitoes by:
- Avoiding places and times when mosquitoes bite.
- Being sure door and window screens are tight-fitting and in good repair.
- Wearing appropriate clothing. Long-sleeved tops and long pants made of tightly woven materials keep mosquitoes away from the skin. Be sure, too, that clothing is light colored.
- Using mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure and to protect small babies.
- Checking to see mosquito repellent contains DEET, a chemical commonly found in these products. Generally, repellents with about 30 percent DEET work best for adults; use lower concentrations for children. When outdoors, apply repellent sparingly to exposed skin or clothing, as indicted on the product's label.
Dr. Whitaker also stressed the importance of eliminating mosquito-breeding places. He suggested:
- Remove or empty water in old tires, tin cans, buckets or other places where mosquitoes may breed.
- Be sure to check clogged gutters and flat roofs that may have poor drainage.
- Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store inside when not in use.
- Change the water in birdbaths and plant pots or drip trays at least once a week.
- Store boats covered or upside down, or remove rainwater weekly.
- Empty your pet's water bowl daily.
- Level the ground around your home so water can run off and not collect in low spots. Fill in holes or depressions near your home that accumulate water.
- Clear weeds, branches and other debris from ditches so they drain properly.
- Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water.
- If you have an ornamental water garden or pond, stock it with fish, such as minnows, goldfish or guppies that eat mosquito larvae.
- Keep weeds and tall grass cut short; adult mosquitoes look for these shady places to rest during the hot daylight hours.