SpecialMosquito-carried illnesses have increased in the United States over the past several years, and residents are urged to take steps to fight against the pest and the illnesses they carry.

Last year, rainfall totals in north Georgia were about 20 inches higher than average, and 2019 is headed in a similar direction. More rain generally equals more mosquitoes, state health officials warned Tuesday.

Mosquito-carried illnesses are on the increase in the United States and disease cases have doubled between 2004 and 2018, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, the report found that disease cases from infected mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have tripled in 13 years.

Georgia falls roughly in the middle of the states for ailments spread by bugs, according to the North Georgia Health District, which serves Cherokee County. Parents and caretakers should understand that children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to get these mosquito-carried diseases, health district officials said in a statement.

“Zika, West Nile and chikungunya — a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a written statement. “Our nation’s first lines of defense are state and local health departments ... and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases.”

Repellants containing DEET are the most effective to avoid mosquito and other insect bites, but there are alternatives. However, these alternatives are somewhat less effective and do not last as long. If using alternatives to DEET on children, applications must be repeated more often, health district officials said. And there is always the alternative of staying indoors during dusk, night and dawn when most female mosquitoes are out looking for blood. Health officials also recommend adults checking themselves and children for ticks after spending time outdoors.

Controlling mosquitoes by destroying their larvae and breeding places is a hundred times more efficient than killing adult mosquitoes, health district officials said. Killing adult mosquitoes is difficult but necessary where larvae control is limited or not possible.

Removing standing water where possible fights against mosquito breeding. And bjects or areas that cannot be emptied of water should be treated with “mosquito dunks” which contain bacteria fatal to mosquito larvae but harmless to everything else.

Health district officials said if property owners have a large area of permanent stagnant water, they should consider introducing small fish such as the native Mosquito Fish, Gambusia affinis, which can be ordered online. Small bream and other native fish will work as well if there is enough oxygen in the water.

You want to keep adult mosquitoes out of your home, health district officials said. Doors to the outside should not be left open during mosquito season unless protected by tight-fitting screen doors. If you have shaded areas around your doors, these are great areas for adult mosquitoes to hang out during the day and enter your home as you open and close the doors. These areas should be treated with a residual insecticide at least once a month. You may buy these at hardware stores in ready-to-use sprayers or mix your own from insecticide concentrates and apply with a simple pump sprayer. Use safety precautions and follow label directions.

Lastly, remember that mosquitoes also carry heartworms and other diseases to pets, health district officials said. When you rid your property of mosquito breeding habitats, you protect them as well.

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