Officials monitor mosquitoes, bats for West Nile and rabies

With pest problems growing during the summer , residents can arm themselves with safety tips and preventative methods to avoid unwanted insects and animals.

Vivek Raman, an environmental health supervisor with the Southern Nevada Health District, said one pest problem in Clark County is mosquitoes. The county has 17 species of the insect.

“When I say Clark County, it ranges from Mesquite to Laughlin ,” Raman said. “You’ll find different species, depending on the part of the valley.”

The insect isn’t just a nuisance, he said, but it also brings the potential for diseases such as West Nile virus.

Raman said the virus affects the nervous system with flu-like symptoms.

More severe complications, which occur in a small percentage of people, range from trouble walking to paralysis and death.

“It just depends on the individual,” Raman said.

Each year since 2004, with the exception of 2010, Raman said health officials have found mosquitoes in the area with West Nile virus.

In 2012, the health district set up 500 traps and caught more than 6,000 mosquitoes. After testing each , they found 75 with the virus.

“It’s a very small percentage,” he said. “But we know we have the disease. People should take precautions to avoid bites and breeding.”

Even though mosquitoes breed year round, Raman said the health district usually discovers the virus in the summer .

“Sunlight and temperature are key factors for breeding,” he said.

Preventative tips for pools include using a cover — chlorine doesn’t kill larvae — and ensuring its surface has no standing water .

If people have ornamental ponds, the health district recommends stocking them with fish, removing leaves and thin plants or screening the inlet of the recirculation pump.

People should also dispose of water collected from rain or sprinklers, divert rainwater from foundations, keep gutters clean and free of debris so water is properly drained and chang e the water from potted plants or vases weekly.

“Potentially, anywhere you have stagnant water could be a breeding ground,” Raman said.

Because of a rise of foreclosed homes, pools in certain houses might have gone stagnant. Raman said people should call code enforcement to report problems.

Other tips include using screens on doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering or dressing in proper attire — lightweight long sleeves or pants — if in an environments that draws mosquito s.

To report concerns about pools not being maintained, call code enforcement at 702-267-3950 in the city of Henderson , 702-633-1677 in the city of North Las Vegas , 702-229-6615 in the city of Las Vegas or 702-455-4191 in unincorporated Clark County.

Mosquitoes aren’t the only pests people should worry about. The health district also receives complaints about rats, which have the potential of carrying diseases such as hantavirus.

Raman said certain diseases have been found in rats in rural parts of the valley .

He added that simple prevention methods to keep rats from taking residence in homes are eliminating unnecessary clutter and maintaining proper storage of food , including for pets.

Raman said the health district isn’t comparable to animal control. The department surveys animals only to detect if there are diseases present .

BATS ARE THE MOST COMMON
CARRIERS OF RABIES

Outside summertime pests, the health district also has information to keep people safe from the yearlong presence of bats, which can carry diseases , including rabies.

Kaci Hickox, an epidemiologist with the health district, said bats are the main animals infected with rabies in Clark County .

“In the past year, we’ve had two bats test positive for rabies,” she said. “We have had 51 since 2001.”

If people see bats on the ground or out in daylight — two behaviors atypical for them — they should be wary. They are probably sick, and you shouldn’t go near them.”

Rabies is transmitted through saliva. If an animal bites or a person’s open wound is exposed to rabies-positive saliva, they could become infected. If exposure occurs, people are advised to seek treatment.

“Rabies is a deadly virus,” Hickox said.

If people are treated before symptoms appear , they are better off.

“But once symptoms set in, we really don’t have an effective treatment,” Hickox said.

Other tips include warning children about bats, asking them to alert an adult if they find one and immunizing pets .

To report a bat sighting, call animal control at 702-455-7710 in unincorporated Clark County, 702-229-6444 in the city of Las Vegas, 702-633-1750 in the city of North Las Vegas or 702-267-4970 in the city of Henderson .

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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