WACO, TX — Several counties in Texas have found the presence of diseased mosquitoes.
With the Center of Disease Control (CDC) indicating that West Nile infected mosquitoes have been found in Tarrant, Dallas, El Paso, Montgomery and Harris Counties, Central Texas New Now reached out to local expert Dr. Jason Pitts of Baylor University for advise on protecting ourselves.
Erin Heft- "When your family goes outside during mosquito season, how do you protect yourself?"
Pitts-"We take deet with us, thats exactly what we do...the best measure is to protect every individual by apply something with deet in it"
Heft- "What precautions would you take other than or in addition to deet use?"
Pitts- "One of the major things one can do is avoid peak biting times for mosquitoes....avoid dusk and dawn. Also you can cover your skin if possible, or just be aware if you're being bitten, or sit in a screened porch if that's possible for you. Another way is to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes...gutters, small cups, planters anything that can hold small quantities of water can be breeding sites for mosquitoes...try to eliminated those."
Doctor Pitts conducts research for Baylor University within their Biology Department.
"Actually my laboratory research, part of it is dedicated to looking at that question and trying to develop new technologies around that and detect viruses in mosquitoes populations that aren't being looked for right now...and so this kind of messaging is incredible important right now because we need the public to be educated about these things" said Pitts.
Another facet to Doctor Pitts' research is understanding why mosquitoes favor some humans over others.
"We know some basics. We know that mosquitoes have a very acute sense of smell. We'd like to understand from a very very specific and genetic and molecular point of view what kinds of receptors, as we call them, mosquitoes express that allow them to detect these kinds of compounds we're giving off. We could develop new ways to interfere with that sense of smell to try to protect people from biting."
When Central Texas News Now asked Doctor Pitts what he feels might be standing in the way of the human West Nile vaccine he explained:
"Vaccine development is a really difficult thing to do. We have lots of great vaccines even for some mosquitoes born diseases for example yellow fever...suffice it to say that there are just very few vaccines available mosquitoes born or arthropod born diseases and that is a huge area of interest. We'd certainly like to see more vaccines to be developed for things like West Nile."