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Those tiny little predators

September 25, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

A County Conservation friend of mine, Steve Lekwa, retired from his Story County Director position a few years ago (actually several years ago now as I think about it). He continues to write a column over in Ames and I'll check in on what he is writing about every once in a while to catch up and maybe gain inspiration for my own column. I hit pay dirt recently and wanted to share some of his and my information here.

Did you know that the world's deadliest predator is not anything that generally would be first, second, third or I would venture to say 45th on that list. In terms of the number of people killed per year, the deadliest predator by far is the tiny little mosquito and that is according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

With a daughter expecting soon and a wife who is a medical technologist, I will say that the Zika virus has been a family discussion a few times this year. It is getting lots of press right now because it's new to North America. We hear little about West Nile Virus now, but it was big news a few years ago when it first showed up. It has since spread to all the lower 48 states and Iowa recently reported its first human case for 2016.

We never hear about Malaria around here, but that disease alone kills more than 600,000 of the estimated 725,000 people that are killed by mosquito-born illnesses each year. Even humans kill each other at a rate of only about 475,000 per year. Add snakes who take out another 50,000, and dogs (via rabies) claim 25,000. Compare that to sharks that get lots of press when they attack someone - they kill only about 10 people per year around the world.

Death from a mosquito-borne disease may finally come after days or even weeks of suffering. Many thousands more people who survive mosquito-borne diseases suffer life-changing residual effects for years.

But before you lock yourself away indoors, let's get this issue into perspective. Only about 1% of people who contact West Nile Virus develop the most serious form of the disease. Most people don't even know they've had it and show no symptoms at all. You can still go outdoors safely if you take a few precautions. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants especially around sunset when mosquitoes are most active. Wear a good repellent containing Deet on exposed skin. The odds of getting a serious form of a mosquito-borne disease that has been found in Iowa is still very low, but the potential for serious illness or even death is still there.

I have no personal experience with the pocket sized battery powered repellent dispensers that keep an area around you relatively mosquito free. But one made by the ThermaCELL company is reported to repel biting flies and even those pesky little no-see-ums, as well.

No-see-ums! Those are a topic for a whole news column in itself. I'll check my file. But surely I have written about those before!



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