Aug. 25, 2008 — While the Virgin Islands was spared the flooding that hit parts of Florida when Tropical Storm Fay lingered, the storm's passage over the Virgin Islands as a tropical disturbance dumped plenty of rain. And many residents are now reaping what the storm sowed — lots and lots of mosquitoes.
Some residents reported the pests weren't too bad where they lived, but others said clouds of them are infesting their properties to the point that they had to fight them off when they ventured out the door.
"They're carrying us away," part-time St. John resident Stephen Hull said, hopefully exaggerating.
He and his wife Maria arrived last week just after the mosquitoes began hatching. Hull said he's forced to wear a mosquito hat that covers his face with a net and tuck his pants into his socks to keep the mosquitoes off when he wants to work outside.
While residents are suffering, local lizards on the other hand are loving it. They're getting fat thanks to the plentiful supply.
"This is like lizard heaven," Hull said.
Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park on St. John, blamed the vicious outbreak of mosquitoes on a long spell with little rain.
He explained that the mosquitoes laid their eggs in any little bit of water they could find. When the weather dried up, the eggs went into hibernation. When it rained again, all the accumulated eggs hatched.
"Then you have an initial major bloom seven to 10 days after a major rain event," he said.
Don't look for the mosquitoes to go away any time soon, though Boulon expects their numbers to diminish. He said that after the first bloom of mosquitoes, those recently hatched mosquitoes lay eggs that hatch in another 10 days or so.
Sunday and Monday's wet weather will insure that those mosquitoes keep up their cycle of laying eggs and hatching and pestering humans.
"But the first bloom is always the worst," Boulon said.
He said that there are far fewer mosquitoes in years when it rains all the time because those blooms don't occur.
Boulon has a weather station at his Trunk Bay home. He said that rainfall was below average when August began, but is now above average. On Aug. 14 and 15, 4.76 inches fell. This was the rainfall that caused the current mosquito outbreak.
Parts of the Coral Bay area got three inches of rain when "pre-Fay" went by, but Boulon said Hawksnest and Cruz Bay received over six inches.
According to Boulon, St. Thomas experienced similar heavy rains but St. Croix received less rain.
While it's difficult to face the mosquitoes, Boulon said that cutting the grass and weeds in your yard increases the airflow around your house.
"And there are lots of mosquitoes in dense bush," he said.
With the mosquitoes comes the threat of dengue fever. Health Department spokesman Eunice Bedminister said that so far, no cases were reported. Doctors are required by law to report dengue cases to the Health Department.
"The only way the Health Department can help is if the physicians call it in," Bedminster said.
The Health Department is scouring the islands for pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. Bedminster asked that residents alert the department to standing pools of water they can't deal with themselves.
Health Commissioner Vivian I. Ebbesen-Fludd reminded residents Monday in a statement that increased rains can make certain areas near the home a haven for mosquito breeding and place residents at risk for dengue fever.
Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms include headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. More complicated cases can result in dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is characterized by high fever, bleeding and circulatory failure. In rare instances, it may result in death.
To help keep your home mosquito free, the Health Department recommends the following.
– Keep tires in dry place.
– Put plants that are in water into soil.
– Empty flowerpot bases weekly.
– Keep barrels tightly sealed.
– Cover or turn pet dishes and buckets that hold water upside down.
– Place a screen or mesh over the overflow pipe of cisterns.
– Repair or replace damaged screens and keep windows and doors without screens closed.
– Cover infant cribs with mosquito netting.
– Use mosquito repellents containing DEET. Follow instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles and nape of neck. Avoid applying repellent to eyes, lips or bruised skin as well as to children under two years old and to the hands of older children.
To report cases of dengue fever, call 773-1311, extension 3241.
To report large pools of stagnant water, contact the Environmental Health Division on St. Croix at 773-1311, extension 3109. On St. Thomas and St. John, call 774-9000, extension 4641 or 715-5111.
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