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Health

Bug bites can carry disease, and the rate of infection has tripled. Here's how to protect yourself




Even small amounts of standing water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes said Kelly Middleton with the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.
Even small amounts of standing water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes said Kelly Middleton with the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.
Sean McCann via Flickr Creative Commons

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The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had some scary news in a report released last week. Cases of illnesses spread by mosquitoes and ticks, like West Nile, Zika virus and Lyme disease tripled in the U.S. between 2004 and 2016.

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It's a striking increase. Those are nationwide numbers, though, so we wondered just how worried we should be about those nasty little bugs here in Southern California.

SoCal concerns

West Nile virus is a year-round concern, said Kelly Middleton from the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. The area sees hundreds of cases every year.

There's a new concern for the area, though — invasive mosquito species that can carry diseases including Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses, Middleton said. 

Summer is the time when mosquitoes become a greater concern in Southern California. Higher temperatures after rain are perfect conditions to see an uptick in these bugs, Middleton said. And she did have a few tips for locals who want to avoid getting bitten or getting sick.

Around the house

As many Californians know, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. But what people often don't realize is that some types of mosquitoes will live indoors and they can breed in very small amounts of water, Middleton said.

Newer mosquito species will breed in something as small as a water bottle cap. They also can take up residence inside, like in a vase of water that's growing lucky bamboo.

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There's a bright side, she said: These invasive species often stay in one area, so if you or your family are getting chomped, that means you could eliminate them by finding the breeding spots in that specific area.

In the great outdoors

When you're hiking or camping, Middleton's biggest tip is to use bug spray — but not just any old spray, though. You have to make sure you use a product registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Not every spray is effective but those registered products have been tested and proven effective against mosquitoes and ticks, Middleton said.

It's also a good idea to do periodic tick checks on yourself and your friends, Middleton said. Tick-borne diseases take a little time to be transmitted (sometimes a couple of hours, she said), so getting ticks off quickly can keep you from getting sick. Showering and washing your clothes in hot water is also a good way to get rid of bugs when you get back from the woods. 

We hope that was helpful, but if you prefer your mosquito information in musical form, please enjoy this rap video GLACVD produced last year. Try not getting that chorus stuck in your head all day.

Mosquito rap