ODESSA — The mosquito season is starting to generate some buzz as the pests could begin to swarm many areas of Pasco in the coming weeks.
The wetter the better is how the disease-ridden pests thrive, according to Dennis Moore, director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District.
By helicopter and fogging trucks, district personnel have been battling larvae in marshes to prevent them from hatching.
“I think it’s right on track,” Moore said about the summer rainy season.
Ordinarily, Moore dispatching the district’s plane indicates an outbreak of adult mosquitoes in isolated areas. Two plane missions so far have targeted the Cypress Creek area, in Central Pasco, and in the Trinity area.
The water table is far from full, so most rainfall is soaking into the ground, rather than standing in puddles, creating a mosquito breeding area, Moore said.
Some inland areas of Pasco got drenched last month, Moore noted, including nine inches of rain in the San Antonio area.
Yet coastal areas such as Aripeka registered five inches of rain for May.
“It’s soaking into the ground and percolating,” Moore said about precipitation in recent weeks. “The ground is so dry right now.”
The tipping point could come this week, however, when a consistent pattern of rain could develop nearly every day, Moore cautioned.
By the Fourth of July holiday weekend, heavier rains will herald the summer season, Moore expects.
Tides also are usually higher then average during the summer, Moore added. The Gulf water flows farther inland along the coastline, flooding the saltwater marshes where mosquitoes thrive.
The mosquito district staff continue to monitor six sentinel chickens that give early warning of any viruses spread by the blood-sucking pests.
One case of Eastern equine encephalitis was confirmed in recent weeks in the Lake Padgett area of Land O’ Lakes, Moore said. It usually has a higher mortality rate among mosquito-borne diseases.
No signs of the West Nile virus have appeared so far.
The mosquito-borne virus that causes a chronic disease called Chikungunya has not made it here yet, Moore said. “It may be a question of when we might see it in Cuba and then Florida,” he said.
Chikungunya first surfaced in the 1950s in sub-Saharan Africa and portions of southern Asia and continues to spread to parts of the Caribbean, Moore said. With the summer travel season, airline passengers might unwittingly import the virus into new areas.
The number of cases in recent years has mushroomed from 17,000 annually to more than 100,000 now. While the mortality rate is low, chikungunya causes extreme pain to limbs and joints similar to arthritic symptoms.
In addition, Moore cautioned homeowners to check yards for spots where water can collect. Two “container breeds” of mosquitoes get cozy in flower pots, for instance. Water in bird baths should be emptied at least once every five days.