Ah, spring. Were all excited to get outside and work cleaning out the shed or garage, getting out gardening tools and outdoor furniture, raking and planting. Not really work its more like play, preparing for summer fun and celebration.
Here comes the overprotective mom with concerns and precautions. Dont worry, just a few reminders including some you likely do already or think about.
Good housekeeping sums it up, says Environmental Health Director Mike Meschke about what residents should do to reduce the threat from animal- and insect-transmitted diseases. He and fellow staff member Bari Wagner, San Juan Basin Health Departments communicable-disease nurse, recently attended the annual Four Corners Public Health Conference in Farmington. It focused on hantavirus, West Nile Virus and plague. A great opportunity to connect with regional colleagues and discuss more ways to share information, it also was a good review of precautions for limiting exposure to these diseases.
Hantavirus, West Nile Virus and plague are transmitted by mosquitoes, deer mouse droppings and fleas, respectively. Therefore, two fundamental housekeeping basics to remember are: (1) remove the food source and (2) remove the shelter. Whether it is removing standing water, which is home for hatching mosquitoes, or piles of rotting wood and other materials that mice like to nest in, removing shelter even holds for making your pet an inhospitable home for fleas by using proper flea control. That way, they dont bring fleas into the house or in contact with you or your children.
There has been a lot of education about West Nile Virus during the last decade. People are removing water sources and using repellent and/or wearing long clothes during typical mosquito times of the day. Keep it up. Well keep up the monitoring by collecting, identifying and shipping mosquito samples to the state lab, as well as investigating reported rat infestations and potentially plague-related prairie dog die-offs.
While good housekeeping helps reduce mice populations, many people find themselves also needing to trap. Its not too late to set out the traps especially in outbuildings such as barns. Wagner recommends the bucket trap, particularly for rural properties. See our website for more information about this trap and Hantavirus precautions.
So you trap, clean and even plug holes (mice can squeeze through dime-sized holes), and there are still mice. Open your outbuildings 30 to 60 minutes before working in them. If you see mice droppings, wet them down with a bleach spray. Let stand for 30 minutes. Dont vacuum or sweep. See www.sjbhd.org for more prevention steps and tips.
One last spring reminder for now: Slip, slap, slop. While that warm sun feels great, it also can cause skin cancer. And everyone is exposed. So slip on long sleeves, slap on a cap, slop on sunscreen and hang out in the shade when possible. Now go enjoy all your fun working outside!
For a fact sheet about hantavirus, plague and WNV, visit www.sjbhd.org/common-disease-in-our-region, and for information about being sun-wise, visit www.sjbhd.org/ sun-safety.
Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.