The community health issue might be best treated not by doctors, but exterminators and local efforts to prevent mosquito infestations.
Eric Gabe, who has worked at Arrow Exterminators in east Cobb since 1995, said because March was colder than normal, the insect problem didn’t start multiplying until after weeks of rain. But the problem could persist through the beginning of November if Marietta has a late frost.
Gabe said his branch normally treats 1,200 properties per month, but has seen a jump of 200 new customers.
Local residents have also noticed the influx in pests.
“The mosquitoes have always been an issue due to the slow creek behind our house. But this year is the worst we have seen,” said Justin Tomczak, who lives off Powers Ferry Road. “They swarm you the moment you go outside regardless of how much bug spray you put on.”
With the concern to be environmentally friendly, many locals want to try natural remedies or are concerned about using chemicals in a yard that is open to their animals.
The pesticide Arrow uses is low-impact and is 99 percent water, Gabe said. It is designed to poison a mosquito and nothing bigger, so once the treatment dries it is safe for pets.
“It really is a sustainable product,” Gabe said.
A treatment averages $45 to $50 a month to spray the perimeter of a home, as well as trees and bushes in the yard. Gabe said ivy and Magnolia trees are the biggest proponent of mosquitoes because the leaves collect moisture.
Tomczak said he tried a $10 store-bought bug spray that attaches to a hose, but the treatment only worked for a week.
Gabe said picking something off the shelf provides no expertise. With Arrow, a customer is buying the company, not just a treatment.
Arrow guarantees the treatment to last between 26 to 30 days, whereas a do-it-yourself attack runs a risk of not working at all.
An itchy feeling
A group of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus according to a report from July 25 by the DeKalb County Board of Health.
Earlier in the month, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed a Brantley County resident was infected with West Nile in May, but made a full recovery without complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that about 10 percent of people with a severe form of the infection die, and others suffer long-term nervous system problems.
Georgia had a reported 99 cases of West Nile virus last year, with six deaths, according to the CDC.
K.C. Patel, a physician at WellStar Health System’s newest urgent care, near the Kennestone Regional Medical Center at 818 Church St., said West Nile is a tricky disease to diagnose because of the flu-like symptoms that can develop three to 15 days after a person is bitten.
Most of the time a mosquito bite goes away on its own, and seldom requires steroid cream or oral treatments, Patel said.
But, the real concern is if symptoms progress to high fever, muscle aches, headaches and vision problems.
Patel said the new urgent care has not recommended a patient be tested for West Nile.
It isn’t just mosquitoes that can be deadly. Buckhead resident Jenny Pomeroy was bit by a red ant while at her condo’s pool.
Pomeroy went into anaphylactic shock, which Patel describes as the throat closing, swelling lips, racing heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. She died at the hospital July 15.
Patel said someone typically knows if they are allergic to a type of insect bite because of incidences in the past.
Gabe’s own wife, Kati, is very allergic to mosquito bites, which he said can spread like a poison ivy outbreak.
“Some people are highly sensitive to a mosquito bite,” Gabe said.
A clean home
Knowing the serious risks, Arrow Exterminators is instructing customers on how to lower the population of Georgia’s tiny pests.
Gabe said new landscaping and more mature yards each have distinct problems, and it is best to have a professional investigate a property to look for hidden items, like an old tire under the porch that might be pooling water.
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and take less than two weeks to develop from an egg into an adult.
Gabe said it is important to keep vegetation free of debris and remove piles of leaves that are damp and dark, making the perfect habitat for bugs and snakes.
Once the risks of a home are cleared, the threat of deadly insects decreases and that lower risk can be better maintained during times the community is having an outbreak.
Gabe said the service by exterminators is a promise by the company to take care of a frustrating problem, especially before pests can enter the home.
Arrow Exterminators tips for controlling mosquito outbreaks:
• Eliminate sources of standing water such as children’s wading pools, birdbaths and flower pots
• Keep rain gutters cleaned out and properly draining away from the home
• Cut back or remove unnecessary vegetation around the home where mosquitoes nest
• Cover swimming pools when not in use
• Use yellow bug light bulbs in outdoor light fixtures