The Maryland Department of Agriculture's Mosquito Control Office, in cooperation with the Department of Health, routinely conducts surveillance activities throughout the state to collect and test mosquitoes for West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and several other mosquito-borne diseases. These diseases are endemic in Maryland and are transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will develop West Nile fever, which is typically characterized by fever, headache, and body aches which can last for just a few days or as long as several weeks. Less than one percent of people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of the disease. People most at risk for developing severe disease are those over 50 and those with already compromised immune systems.
While not all mosquitoes carry these diseases, the Maryland Department of Agriculture suggests that residents take precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites. These measures include:
- Wear long, loose fitting, light colored clothing
- Wear insect repellents according to product labels
- Avoid mosquito infested areas during prime periods of activity (between dusk and dawn)
- Install, inspect, and repair window and door screens in homes and stables
- Regularly clean bird baths and bowls for pet food and water
- Remove or empty all water-holding containers
Currently there is no WNV vaccine for humans. There are, however, effective vaccines for horses, ostriches and emus - also known as ratites. Owners are encouraged to get their animals vaccinated and boostered in a timely manner in consultation with their veterinarian.
Dog owners are also urged to have their pets checked for heartworms, the most common disease transmitted by mosquitoes in Maryland. Dogs in all Maryland jurisdictions should be placed on a heartworm preventive program. Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians.
For more information about mosquito-borne diseases, contact your local health department. The following websites are available to provide additional information:
- Maryland Department of Agriculture
- Maryland Department of Health
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture Mosquito Control on Twitter @MdAgMosquito.