MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Shelby County health officials are distributing mosquito-eating fish to help combat West Nile Disease and other maladies.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/R6XJev ) reports that Gambusia (gam-BOOZ'-ya) fish are native to the Delta region. Homeowners are encouraged to stock the species in ornamental ponds or non-working swimming pools to eat larvae of mosquitoes that lay eggs in still water.
The little fish have big appetites.
"One fish can eat up to 120 larvae per day. These aren't exotic. We go out and get them in ditches," said Dr. Dan Sprenger, manager of the department's vector control program.
With Shelby County having three of Tennessee's five confirmed West Nile case so far this year, officials are urging residents to give mosquitoes fewer places to spawn. The known local cases are those of a 25-year-old man and two women, ages 48 and 63. Health officials would not comment on the severity of the cases or say where the victims live.
Residents who want the fish can call the department's vector control program Monday-Friday.
More than 50 residents have stopped by to pick up the fish so far. They take them home in gallon-size plastic bags or fish bait buckets.
"This is one of the ways that people can help themselves," Sprenger said.
Mosquitoes have a seven-day birth cycle, so health officials say it's important to eliminate as many sources of standing water as possible.
Rainwater in a wheelbarrow, an old tire, tin cans or buckets are potential mosquito producers.
"Clogged gutters, even a bottle cap of standing water can be a problem," vector control entomologist Ture Carlson said. "Bamboo is a natural container."
All mosquitoes don't carry West Nile, but the Health Department has found infected mosquitoes in every zip code of the county.
Even if bitten by an infected mosquito, four out of five people have no effects, however serious symptoms occur in about one out of 150 cases.
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com