Marietta resident Cyndi Grammer isn't a fan of using bug spray on her children, but she considers it the lesser of two evils when it comes to mosquitoes.
"I don't like to spray chemicals on them," said the mother of five. "But I'm more worried about the diseases (mosquitoes) carry."
The Ohio Department of Health has recorded 15 confirmed and probable human cases of West Nile virus so far this year, along with one in a horse. Nearly 21 percent of mosquito pools tested around the state have been positive for the virus, according to a release issued Friday afternoon.
Those samples were submitted by 26 health agencies around the state. The Washington County Health Department no longer tests mosquito pools due to manpower issues and the fact that no cases have been reported in the last decade, when concern has been the most high.
An Ohio Health Department spokeswoman said this year's statistics are on pace with 2002, when there were 441 cases and 31 deaths recorded.
Last year, there were 21 cases confirmed, with one death.
Preventing mosquito bites
Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. A higher percentage of active ingredient in a repellent does not mean that your protection is better-just that it will last longer. Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors.
Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth, so avoid applying repellent to the hands of children.
Spray clothing with repellents containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to exposed skin. Do not apply repellent to skin under your clothing.
When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when you are outdoors with infants.
Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk and in the early evening, which are peak mosquito biting times.
Install or repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
Help reduce the number of mosquitoes in areas outdoors where you work or play by draining sources of standing water. In this way, you reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed.
At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.
Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water.
Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
Most people who are infected show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. But about 1 in 150 develop a serious form like West Nile encephalitis, meningitis or poliomyelitis. Severe symptoms include headache, high fever, coma, convulsions and paralysis. People with underlying medical conditions, infants, the elderly and others with weakened immune systems are most at risk, according to ODH.
Of the 15 cases reported to ODH, 11 involved a person being hospitalized with encephalitis, meningitis, fever or another clinical illness.
While Ohio's numbers are up over recent years, the situation is more dire in Texas, where 336 cases and 14 deaths have been reported. In Dallas County alone, 230 people have been infected and 10 have died, leading county officials to deploy aerial spraying in an attempt to cut down the mosquito population.
"We actually just went to Dallas, so we packed bug spray," Grammer said.
"I was fine just using the bug spray," she said. "You either stay inside all year or you take the bug spray and enjoy the outside."
The wet spring and recent drought conditions have contributed to a rise in the population of Culex mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile, according to the ODH release.
Marietta resident Kristin McCutcheon, 25, isn't sure what's to blame for the large number of mosquitoes swarming around homes in the Norwood neighborhood, but they've eliminated playing in the yard as an option for her daughter this summer.
"Even at noon when they're not supposed to be that bad, they're horrible," McCutcheon said. "So I take her to my grandmother's house in Barlow to play outside."
McCutcheon said she and a neighbor have had no success with treating their yards and the individual spray she's used hasn't worked very well. She's had better luck with a small fan device designed to repel mosquitoes.
Marietta City Health Department officials have been to the neighborhood, but McCutcheon said so far they haven't been able to locate the source of the mosquitoes. She and her neighbors empty standing water that they find around their homes to eliminate potential mosquito breeding areas.
A call to the city health department was not returned Friday.
Kathleen Meckstroth, Washington County health commissioner, said the county health department hasn't tested mosquitoes for West Nile for several years.
"We just don't have the staff to do it, for one thing," she said. "It's still not a high priority because we have not had any cases in this area."
However, if a case was reported, the office would follow up on it and evaluate what steps should be taken next, she said.
There has been one confirmed case of LaCrosse encephalitis, another potentially serious mosquito-borne illness, in Washington County this year. But Meckstroth said she did not have much information about the case, including whether the individual actually contracted it in the county. The case was diagnosed in July at Akron Children's Hospital, and the individual made a full recovery, she said.
Although mosquito pools in West Virginia have tested positive for the virus - including two in Wood County - no human cases have been recorded, according to a release from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.