The onset of warmer weather signals the arrival of a summertime pest: mosquitoes. The mosquito problem has become more significant in recent years with the spread of the West Nile Virus.

The Fort Smith street and traffic control department sprays the city for mosquitoes every week during the mosquito season (typically April - October). The spraying is accomplished by mixing an EPA-approved chemical with mineral oil and “fogging” the mixture into the air. The spraying is done during nighttime hours when few people are out of doors. The mosquito spraying truck is clearly marked, and has yellow flashing lights.

The spraying controls only adult mosquitoes. The best mosquito reduction effort is to prevent the hatch of new mosquitoes. Mosquito larvae need stagnant water for 5-7 days in order to hatch. Even small amounts of water such as a bird bath, a clogged gutter or a bucket are sufficient. Citizens should do everything possible to eliminate standing water. If the standing water can’t be eliminated, stirring the standing water every 3-4 days is helpful.

Some areas of standing water such as ponds and drainage ways can’t be eliminated. For these areas maintained by the city, pellets will be dispersed in the standing water. The pellets will prevent the mosquito larvae from hatching.

You can minimize your risk of mosquito bites by using insect repellants, particularly those with DEET. Taking sulfur tablets may also keep mosquitoes away from you. It’s advisable to wear long sleeves and long pants when going into mosquito-infested areas. Limiting outdoor activities at dawn, dusk and other times when mosquitoes are most active will reduce your encounters with the pesky insects.

For more information about Fort Smith’s mosquito control program, contact the street and traffic control department at 784-2360.

West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne illness, has made its way to Arkansas. Infections of both people and animals were reported in the state last year. Most states east of Arkansas have experienced the virus.

Symptoms

West Nile Virus is rarely fatal in human beings. Your risk of contracting the disease is very low, and less than 1% of those who get the virus become seriously ill. Those most susceptible to the potentially serious effects are the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems. West Nile Virus isn’t transmissible from person to person.

A mild infection of West Nile Virus will have symptoms such as

- fever
- headache
- body aches
- skin rash
- swollen lymph glands

More serious infections are marked by

- high fever
- severe headache
- neck stiffness
- stupor or disorientation
- tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma.

Anyone who suspects they may be infected should seek medical attention immediately. Early detection and treatment are critical for recovery.

Citizens needing more information about the West Nile virus may call the Sebastian County health department at 452-8600 or visit the Internet at www.healthyarkansas.com. If you have questions about mosquito control, call the Fort Smith street and traffic control department at 784-2360 or e-mail the City of Fort Smith Streets & Traffic Control Department