(BPT) - From annoying itchy welts to serious conditions like Malaria and West Nile virus, mosquitoes have been making humans miserable and sick for thousands of years. And now, there's Zika - a mosquito-spread virus that may be linked to serious birth defects. In fact, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the diseases mosquitoes spread make them the deadliest animal on the planet.
The arrival of warm weather means it's time to step up your mosquito prevention and protection efforts in order to help protect your family. The National Pest Management Association offers some information that can help:
* The type of mosquito that transmits Zika bites during the daytime hours. Most other types of mosquitoes bite during dusk and dawn.
* Within the U.S., mosquitoes have been known to spread West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and encephalitis-causing viruses in humans, and heartworms in dogs.
* Mosquitoes spread disease when they bite one person, fly to another and bite again, spreading the infection. What many people don't realize is that the saliva from the mosquito's bite causes the red, itchy irritation that we all know so well.
The NPMA recommends some ways you can help reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:
* Eliminate breeding areas - Mosquitoes need only about a half-inch of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Get rid of any stagnant water around your home, such as flower pots, bird baths, kiddie pools and standing water in low areas of your yard.
* Use repellent - Whenever you spend time outside, protect your skin from mosquito bites by applying an insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Also, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
* Be aware of the time of day - Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, although the variety that transmits Zika prefers to bite during the day. Minimize outside activity during peak biting hours, or, if you must be outside, wear long sleeves, pants and repellent to thwart mosquitoes.
* Watch what you wear - Dark colors, floral prints and sweet-smelling perfumes or colognes can attract mosquitoes to you. Wear light colors and forego perfume when spending time outside.
* Protect your house - Screens help keep mosquitoes out of your house. Be sure all windows and doors are outfitted with screens, and that all are in good shape. Repair tears to keep mosquitoes from getting inside.
* Travel wisely - Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries, so if your summer vacation will take you outside the country, check what travel advisories may be in effect in your destination. If someone gets sick upon returning home, seek medical care immediately.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at control, mosquitoes on your property can still be a problem. A licensed pest control professional can help you manage mosquitoes. To find a professional near you, visit the NPMA's website at pestworld.org.
Serving Those Who Served
(Family Features) When Cpl. Matt Foster left Afghanistan after his tour of duty in 2013, he didn’t know whether he would ever see his K-9 partner again.
For nine months, Foster and Sgt. Mick, a black Labrador retriever, lived and worked together keeping the military compound at Camp Leatherneck and the surrounding area in Helmand Province safe from explosive attack.
Foster’s interest in becoming a military dog handler in the Marine Corps came from a high school friend who served and ultimately lost his life in Afghanistan.
“I’d always loved dogs and this seemed like a good fit for me,” he said. “Only a certain number of dogs are assigned to a unit, so I was fortunate to be selected.”
After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Foster did not give up in his quest to adopt Mick. The 7-year-old Lab had been discharged for medical reasons and Foster said he lost count of the number of adoption forms he sent attempting to be reunited with his dog.
“It is very difficult for a Marine infantry K-9 handler to keep his dog when he returns from active duty overseas,” Foster recalled. “Once back in California, the dogs go on a truck to North Carolina to be redeployed, and generally we never see them again.”
That, in fact, is what happened with one of Foster’s two explosives detection dogs.
“Macey, a chocolate Lab, was my first dog and Mick joined us later,” he said. “Macey and Mick were my babies; we lived, ate and slept together for more than a year.”
“When I first got Mick back, I was worried that I might not be able to take care of him,” he recalled. “After what you go through with your dog in the service and then adopt them afterward, you wouldn’t want to say goodbye to your partner because you couldn’t afford to take care of him.”
Once military and police dogs retire, with no guaranteed pension for their medical care, the burden and cost of care often fall solely on their caregivers. Now an advocate for military dog adoption, Foster has joined The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve and the RIMADYL K-9 Courage program to help other retired military dogs and handlers.
The RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program is a charitable healthcare donation program that, together with The Sage Foundation and National Police Dog Foundation, provides financial and in-kind product donations of $150,000 annually to support the veterinary needs for up to 500 retired police and military K-9s.
“I’m a big believer in the power of the human-animal bond, and I think anyone who loves a dog can relate to that special relationship,” said J. Michael McFarland, DVM, DAPVP, Group Director, Companion Animal Marketing for Zoetis, the company behind the program. “But it goes to another level with these former working dogs. I think it’s difficult for most of us to even comprehend how special that relationship is.”
Foster agrees: “I know firsthand the wear and tear on these dogs while they are in service, and having a program to help offset their medical needs is very helpful.”
Officer without a pension
“Dano is an extraordinary dog,” said Senior Deputy Sheriff Danielle Delpit of her K-9 partner. “He’s been injured, tazed and involved in two critical incidents.”
One of those incidents resulted in Dano saving his human partner’s life. For his bravery, the German shepherd received the first National Police Dog Foundation Hero Award.
Recently, Delpit noticed that Dano, now 7 1/2 years old, was slowing down and she reluctantly decided it was time for him to retire.
“As his handler, I am looking out for his best interests first. He couldn’t jump into the car like he used to, I could tell he was in pain,” she said.
After Dano’s retirement, it became Delpit’s responsibility to care for him.
“While on active duty, Dano’s veterinary care was covered. But now that he is retired, it is up to me,” she explained. “Dano has injuries; he has a bad back and I know he will eventually have arthritis. The RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program will give me peace of mind to know I’ll have help to give him the healthcare he deserves.”
Even before Dano’s retirement, Delpit decided not to have another K-9 partner.
“There can never be a replacement for that one special dog. He’s not only made me a better police officer, he’s made me a better person,” she said.
K-9s in service
An estimated 1,775 military dogs are actively working to protect military personnel. Each dog saves as many as 150-200 service men and women by detecting explosives and hidden weapons caches.
In an average year, 300-400 dogs retire, but it’s not required that a military dog serving overseas be returned to the United States at retirement. Legislation is pending in Congress to mandate their return for U.S. adoption.
The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve (www.sagefoundationfordogs.org) works to promote the welfare of dogs who have faithfully served in wars, police work, crime prevention and rescue. Their work includes education and public awareness, as well as making medical care available for these hero dogs.
Today, law enforcement dogs are used at the local, county, state and federal levels, and are considered full-fledged police officers. Unlike their human counterparts, however, these officers do not receive a pension.
With a mission of making K-9 teams mission-ready and self-sustaining, the National Police Dog Foundation (www.nationalpolicedogfoundation.org) provides funding for the purchase, training and medical needs for police dogs through retirement.
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