Hard rains in the past month at Fort Riley have created ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes to thrive during the late summer weather and have increased the risk of possible West Nile Virus infection.
While Kansas has not experienced a high number of cases this year, taking a few simple precautions can help Soldiers and Family members from being bitten by mosquitoes.
Fort Riley's Department of Public Health has been testing mosquito traps across the installation weekly since April and with the help of the Directorate of Public Works has sprayed a mosquito insecticide through a fogger truck in certain areas around post to reduce the risk of people getting bit.
The mosquito traps are sent out for testing and up until this week had come back negative for West Nile Virus. A batch did come back positive – the batch came from traps located in a sediment pond near the wash rack north of Custer Hill, away from neighborhoods and work areas.
Because of the preparation by Fort Riley, mosquitoes have been controlled and watched closely.
"The surveillance for mosquitoes, even those not carrying the virus, is vital to controlling the mosquito population as we get into late summer and early fall," said Lt. Col. Paul Benne, chief, Department of Public Health. "We've done a good job at the preparation. We just need to take precautions now that we know that WNV carrying mosquitoes have been identified on post."
As the temperatures continue to drop into the low 50s at night, mosquitoes will start to prepare for hibernation and won't be as noticeable, said Capt. Robert Peterson, chief, Environmental Health, Irwin Army Community Hospital.
Breeding grounds for mosquitoes can be eliminated by making sure flower pots aren't overflowing with water, children's wading pools don't have standing water in them and by replacing the water in bird baths weekly.
If Fort Riley residents notice standing water for more than four days in their neighborhood, they can call their neighborhood office and Picerne Military Housing will work to determine the best course of action.
Workers on post who notice standing water in work areas can call DPW at 785-239-0900.
Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn. It is recommended that residents stay inside or wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt if they must go outside.
"It is very important to use repellent when outside" Benne said.
Use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient – DEET, Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus – and follow the directions on the package. Some products should not be used on small children.
About 80 percent of people infected with the virus show no symptoms, and about 20 percent display flu-like symptoms three to 14 days after infection, which may last a day to a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Less than 1 percent of people infected become seriously ill and develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord).
Severe symptoms include high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, muscle weakness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks.
People age 50 and older and those who have had organ transplants are known to be at the highest risk of serious illness from the virus.
No specific treatment exists for the virus, and there is currently not an approved vaccine to prevent the virus in humans.
There have been no serious cases of West Nile Virus at Fort Riley in the past four years, Benne said.
"We are in no way expecting an epidemic. Do what you can to not get bit and you will be virus-free," Peterson said.