July 25, 2013

Mosquitoes pack bigger bite this year along Grand Strand

Calls for Horry County to spray neighborhoods to calm mosquito worries up 200 from last year.

Horry County has had more than 600 mosquito complaints so far this year – up by nearly 200 from last year – and officials think the problem is far from over.

“It’s higher than average, based on the complaints we’re getting in and based on the amount of rain we’ve had,” said Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County. “We see that there’s no end in sight for the next couple of months.”

The county spends about $490,000 annually to battle mosquitoes, which include labor, spraying neighborhoods and placing larvicide in catch basins. County officials placed 6,000 larvicide tablets in catch basins in May that contain a natural microbe that infects the mosquito larvae and prevents adult mosquito emergence, Bourcier said.

“We treat catch basins, because these areas generally do not have natural predators but often contain standing water,” she said.

During all of 2012, the county had a total of 893 mosquito complaints. For 2013 to-date, there have been 603 mosquito complaints. From January to July 2012, the county had a total of 386 mosquito complaints. Bourcier said not all are complaints, and some of those calls are from residents who would like their property sprayed before a big outdoor gathering.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs on permanent water like edges of ponds, lakes, creeks, freshwater marshes and in yards like in old tires, bird baths, clogged gutters and more. They also breed in moist soil that is often flooded by rising streams and rivers. According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the eggs hatch when an area is flooded and adult mosquitoes can fly as far as 20 miles.

“While in normal rainfall years, our main mosquito problem is from the Asian tiger mosquito, which breeds in small containers around the house, such as buckets, kiddie pools, tarps, and even plastic bags,” Bourcier said. “This year, with the heavy rainfall, we have had floodplain mosquitoes hatch because floodplains have been inundated. These species can lay eggs that lay dormant for years waiting for sufficient rainfall to hatch, so this is one of the reasons why we have so many complaints.”

Parts of Horry County have been flooded – some for days and some for weeks. Areas of the county have received in excess of 30 inches of rain in the last 90 days, according to a map on the National Weather Service’s website. Lee’s Landing in rural Conway has been hit the hardest as a flood warning continues for the Waccamaw River through Sunday, according to the NWS.

Tim Armstrong, meteorologist for the NWS in Wilmington, said the official rain gauge at Grand Strand Airport measured 22.93 inches of rain in the last 90 days, which is about 10 inches more than last year.

“It looks like through July and August the weather is going to be biased toward wet weather,” Armstrong said. “Our climate prediction center... predicts wetter than normal weather for the southeast area of the country, which includes the Myrtle Beach region.”

Jim Beasley, agency spokesman for DHEC, said there have been no reports of West Nile Virus, which is a virus carried by mosquitoes to humans that can prove to be fatal in some cases.

He said given the future forecast, it is important people remember the four D’s when dealing with mosquitoes: Drain standing water, dress in clothing that covers skin during peak hours, dawn and dusk are peak hours, and use deet, which is a chemical used to detract mosquitoes.

“We’re more interested in preventing illness than reporting it,” Beasley said.

And don’t think humans are the only ones impacted by mosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes not only affect humans, they affect animals,” Bourcier said.

Among the top worries is Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or E3, which can fatally attack horses.

Heather Caplan, a veterinarian with Meadowlawn Veterinarian Clinic in Conway, said cases of E3 in Horry County quadrupled so far from last year.

“Equine encephalitis is a very preventable disease with a vaccine, but it has a pretty high mortality rate,” Caplan said. “So far this year, there have been nine confirmed cases in Horry County.”

Caplan said there were two known cases last year.

She said Meadowlawn clinic has reached out to horse owners who may have vaccines past due and some have even come in for a second dose this year, which is recommended. Caplan said the vaccine, which costs between $20 and $40, will be available at a clinic planned for 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 at Conway Feed.

“I think a lot of people are used to vaccinating once a year, but, especially in this area, owners are learning they need to vaccinate twice,” she said.

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