It seems that we just want to avoid a lull as it comes to communicable diseases.
After slogging through the worst of COVID, monkeypox rears its head. As this virus begins to subside along comes stories of West Nile virus. This latter virus is transmitted by mosquitoes who acquire the condition from infected birds, so it is different from COVID and monkeypox in that regard.
The Carolinas and Virginia have largely been spared from WNV over the years. In fact, in 20 years there have been fewer than 100 cases in our state. Compare that to the thousands of cases in California, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota and one can see we really have been spared.
Many years ago, I was talking to some experts from Fort Carson and asked why our numbers were so low. They said one theory was that the propensity to throw used motor oil into the ditches in the Carolinas decreased the mosquito population. It may have been said in jest, but there is some truth to it.
I was thinking 2022 was the year of the gnat until I did research and found articles about the gnats being so bad for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. It says they are a problem when there is a lot of moisture, and the temperature was below 80 degrees. The temperature certainly did not hold true this year and while we have had high humidity, it has been pretty dry.
There are three types of gnats: fungus gnats, buffalo gnats and black gnats. The buffalo gnat bites, which may explain the bites along my wrists and ankles. For a while I thought I had fallen victim to the dreaded beach no-see-ums — you know, where every beach photo shows someone scratching.
While gnats are a nuisance, they really do not create any health issues other than irritability of the victims who find it impossible to do anything outdoors. Like mosquitoes you must keep pots empty and keep the yard cleared, wear light-colored clothing that consists of long sleeves and long pants, use sprays designed for this purpose and cover trash cans as they are attracted to the rotting odors.
I had originally thought that the dragon flies (aka skeeter hawks) were not doing their job or perhaps there are not as many of them as there used to be, but they may not be the culprit. Same thing with my chimney swifts who did not show this year for some reason.
It seems like it is just going to get worse and worse based on the past five years — so as they say, get used to it.
Bill Smith is director of the Robeson County Department.