May showers like we've seen around here bring bugs -- especially mosquitos. They're no longer just a nuisance in North Carolina; they're a health threat.
Here's what's scary: Mosquitos lay between 100 and 400 eggs at a time, usually in standing water. Ten days later, those eggs are adults.
It's shaping up to be a rough mosquito season at places like Pullen Park in Raleigh. The recent rains may make outdoor fun feel more like feeding time for the pests.
Nick Hopkins of Raleigh is getting ready for a family reunion Friday. It's a real pain because of all the pesky mosquitos.
"I just hate them," Hopkins said. "Look at my arms, what they do to me, and I don't particularly like them."
According to Dr. Barry Engber, the state's top mosquito expert, mosquito season has gotten off to a good start.
"Water benefits mosquitos," Engber said. "They have to have water to breed in, and we've had plenty of water."
Part of Engber's job is to keep track of mosquitos and the diseases they can carry. Each year, the state tests dead Blue Jays, Crows and other birds for West Nile Virus. Mosquitos can transmit the virus from birds to people.
Last year, by testing birds, the state confirmed the disease in more than 75 counties.
"We expect this year that all 100 counties will report West Nile Virus," Engber said. "So it's definitely here."
Experts say that -- because no one has come up with a way to control the rain yet -- the next best thing is to protect yourself and limit the places mosquitos can breed. The most common places they breed are in rain gutters that haven't been cleaned out, pots, buckets and anything else that holds water.
Last year, one person in the state caught West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite. He recovered. But officials worry there will be more human cases this year.
North Carolina is clearly vulnerable to the virus. Two years ago, there were only 17 cases in the state, and none of those were in humans. But in just one year, the number of cases skyrocketed when two people got the virus here -- though one was through a blood transfusion.
Twenty-nine horses and more than 200 birds also contracted West Nile. Neither of the two humans died from it.
The best protection against mosquitos is a good insect repellent.
testers did something a lot of people never would do. They treated their arms with repellent and put them inside a glass box holding 200 mosquitoes.
The top ratings went to Ultrathon, a $9 repellent from 3M. It kept mosquitoes away for 13 hours and ticks away for 10.
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