As the summer season settles in, so do nature's blood-sucking insects — mosquitoes and ticks.
No cases of Zika virus have been found in Mid-Missouri, but the Cole County Health Department recommends everyone take a proactive role in preventing and protecting themselves from insect bites.
CCHD recommends campers and outdoor adventurers always carry bug repellent, and it offers tips for those who stay close to home.
Any standing water source such as a toy, rain barrel, clogged gutter, pet bowl or even an unsealed septic tank can be a potential breeding place for mosquitoes.
"If it's a small pool of water, the easiest thing to do is to just dump it," said Christopher White, CCHD public health emergency planner and environment public health specialist. "Standing water is the most common breeding place for mosquitoes."
White recommended using mosquito dunks for bird baths, flower pots or even old automobile tires that have standing water in them. The mosquito dunk poisons the water, which helps kill any developing larvae for up to 30 days.
"The life cycle of a mosquito depends on that source of water," White said.
He emphasized spraying the mosquitoes' habitat is not the most effective way to kill them; using the tip-and-toss method to completely eliminate the source of standing water is the best course of action.
A strong fan would deter mosquitoes from flying near patios or grilling areas while families spend time in the backyard, he said.
With recent floods and high precipitation in Mid-Missouri, actively protecting yourself from mosquitoes and tick bites can be life-saving.
"If you're in a warm, moist, wet area, there's a very high likelihood that you're going to have mosquitoes around you," said Joe Gassner, CCHD environmental public health supervisor. "If you're in a wooded area, it's most likely you're going to have ticks around you."
On a national level, there is concern about the prevalence of Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, due to the many cases around this time last year.
There were 5,102 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases reported in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-five cases were in Missouri.
White noted while there have been few occurrences of Zika across the state, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and using insect repellent can help avoid potentially dangerous bug bites.
"When long sleeves aren't conducive to the weather, always remember to put your sunscreen on first, and then apply your bug repellent," he said. "If you can, avoid the morning and evenings when (mosquitoes) are most active."
To avoid tick bites, CCHD recommends using products with permethrin as an active ingredient.
"Tick bites are another nuisance of themselves," Gassner said. "With ticks, I recommend using permethrin because it will kill them upon contact."
Any product with a high level permethrin should not be used on the skin, only on clothing materials, Gassner warned.