Health dept. gives standing water notice

MDH hopes removing stagnant water will halt the spread of mosquito-borne illness.

by David Minor

In the wake of the Zika virus outbreak that has plagued parts of Latin America, Minnesotans are being asked to dump out stagnant water to stave off the spread of mosquito-related diseases.
In a statement released  Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health warned residents that standing water in vessels such as wheelbarrows and buckets act as a breeding ground for mosquitos. Diseases like La Crosse encephalitis — an infection that can lead to central nervous system damage in kids — can be spread through mosquito reproduction.
While experts say it’s unlikely Zika-carrying bugs will infest the state, the MDH’s statement emphasized that getting rid of standing water can help prevent mosquitos that carry disease from multiplying. 
Because mosquitos can’t travel far from stagnant water, their control is relatively easy, said Dave Neitzel, supervisor for the vector-borne disease unit at MDH.
On average, between one and six cases of La Crosse are reported in the state annually, according to MDH.
Since 1991, there have been 16 occasions where a mosquito thought to carry the Zika virus has been located in Minnesota, Neitzel said.
On each occasion, the bugs have died out in the winter, but Neitzel said it’s important to take steps to prevent them from settling in Minnesota.
“Since we don’t have those mosquitos established here, the risk of Zika virus transmission locally appears to be pretty small at this point,” Neitzel said.
University of Minnesota microbiology researcher Michelle Riehle said that in comparison to other diseases like Lyme disease, La Crosse encephalitis isn’t a cause for fear.
Riehle said she recommends wearing bug spray to protect against mosquito-borne illnesses.
So far, 12 Zika cases have been reported for Minnesotans who have traveled to countries in Latin America, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends wearing long sleeves, staying in places with window and door screens and using insect repellent when travelling to Zika-affected areas.