When asked the question, "What is the deadliest animal on the planet?" thoughts of the great white shark, the African lion or venomous cobras possibly come to mind.
Guess again. It's not one of these great predators. It's a tiny, stealthy insect that causes more human deaths than any other organism on our planet.
Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, they are also responsible for more than 1-million people dying every year from mosquito-borne diseases, mainly malaria. As the female mosquito takes her blood meal from an unsuspecting host, pathogens can be introduced into the bloodstream. While more than 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths are recorded in African territories, they are not completely foreign to Florida.
In the state, an average of 47 imported malaria cases was reported annually during the 1980s, compared with 74 imported cases reported annually during the 1990s.
During the 1990s, Florida had a half-dozen locally acquired cases of human malaria. Since the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting malaria are found throughout Florida, we must remain vigilant in monitoring this danger. Organized mosquito control in the state has greatly reduced the incidence of several diseases, but the threat still remains for other mosquito-transmitted diseases, including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and dog heartworm.
Don't forget the pets. Dog heartworm, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is very common in our area, so preventive medication for your dog is highly recommended. Also, the Florida Department of Agriculture is urging horse owners to make sure that their animals are vaccinated against West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.
With the recent heavy rainfalls, mosquito season is in high gear. To prevent mosquitoes from taking a bite out of your summer fun, the American Mosquito Control Association has these tips for homeowners to keep those pesky intruders under control.
Always remember the three D's of protection from mosquitoes:
• Drain: Many mosquito problems are likely to come from water-filled containers that residents can help eliminate. All mosquitoes require water in which to breed. Be sure to drain standing water around your house.
• Dress: Wear light-color, loose-fitting clothing. Some mosquito species are attracted to dark clothing and some can bite through tight-fitting clothes. When practical, wear long sleeves and pants.
• Defend: Choose a mosquito repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Registered products have been reviewed and approved and pose minimal risk for human safety when used according to label directions.
Dennis Moore is the director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District. For mosquito problems in Pinellas County, call (727) 464-7503 or visit the county mosquito control Web site at www.pinellascounty.org/mosquito.