Fight the Bite: Monsoon storms bring mosquitoes to Southern Arizona

Monsoon and Mosquitoes
Monsoon and Mosquitoes

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A monsoon storm can bring more than relief from the heat in Southern Arizona.

The standing water left behind makes a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“It’s more itchy than anything," said Katie Powell, who opted for jeans on a summer night while at the dog park Monday.

“I have been mauled by mosquitoes, so to speak, for the last couple weeks with all the muggy weather," said Powell.

The bugs are part of the business for Gregg Bustamante, an Environmental Health Technician with the Pima County Health Department.

Bustamante is part of a team that traps, tracks and tests the mosquitoes throughout the country during the surveillance season, in it’s peak right now. He said a female mosquito can lay eggs in just a half inch of water.

Not only can mosquitoes interfere with outdoor work of fun, the Pima County Health Department said they can also make people very sick. Mosquitoes in southern Arizona can spread diseases such as West Nile virus, Dengue and Chikungunya.

Bustamante said the team is finding more ‘floodwater’ mosquitoes that are a nuisance in the area than the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus.

“They don’t transmit West Nile, but they are very, very persistent," said Bustamante.

The West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito borne disease in the state. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, seven deaths have been linked to the disease so far in 2019.

As of August 8, 2019, the AZDHS has investigated close to 300 reported human cases of West Nile virus infection in Arizona residents. Pima and Cochise Counties only account for 13 of those investigations. None were confirmed in either county.

“We haven’t had the monsoons like we’ve had in the past," said Bustamante. "Will they last longer? Will we get more rain? I don’t know. So we do always keep our eyes in the sky.”

“We want to be able to monitor where we are catching mosquitoes and see what type of mosquitoes we’re catching," said Bustamante. "We want to make sure that the public is going to be safe.”

Here are some preventive steps that you can easily take from the Pima County Health Department:

  • Keep mosquitoes off of your body. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. If you are not wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts, use insect repellent on exposed skin.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your yard. Walk through your yard and check for areas that collect water. Standing water is the ideal place for mosquitoes to breed, so change outdoor pet water daily and replace with fresh water and make sure things like plant containers, tires, or other items are not collecting water.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your house. If you want the fresh air in the evening, feel free to open your windows, but check your window screens for holes and repair immediately. Do not leave doors open if you do not have a screen door to act as a mosquito barrier.

Other good reminders:

  • Use mosquito repellents that contain DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently.
  • Report mosquito breeding problems (e.g. green pools) to (520) 724-7908 (or filling out the feedback form to the right).

For concerns or complaints about mosquitoes in Pima County, call: (520) 724-7908.

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