By Susan Donaldson

With recent rains preceded by a mild winter, this summer has been an active mosquito season. Of particular concern are mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus (WNV).

Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year round, but the population is largest and most active from April through September. During the season, adult mosquito populations are monitored and tested for mosquito-borne viruses by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. Check the Austin/Travis County Arbovirus Surveillance Maps for the latest information on West Nile Virus-confirmed mosquito activity.

Travis County has seen a total of 108 mosquito pools testing positive for WNV in 28 zip codes as of Sept. 4, 2012 — the highest number of positive pools detected since surveillance activities began in 2003.

In Travis County, there have been a total of 68 human WNV cases and three deaths reported from Jan. 1 to Sept. 12, 2012. In Texas, there were 1,182 human WNV cases and 53 deaths were reported from Jan. 1 to Sept. 12, 2012.

Preventing mosquitoes from biting you is the best defense. To help prevent bites, follow the four Ds:

  • Dusk and dawn: Try to stay indoors at dusk and dawn. That is the time when mosquitoes likely to carry the infection are most active.
  • Dress: Wear pants and long sleeves when you are outside.
  • DEET: Apply insect repellent that contains DEET. Read and follow label instructions. Spray both exposed skin and clothing with repellent.
  • Drain: Get rid of standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, birdbaths and wading pools can be breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Check out this comprehensive article on less toxic or green mosquito control, including product toxicity comparisons, for additional options.

To report a mosquito problem, call (512) 978-0370 or click here to send an email to the City of Austin.

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KXAN’s Reagan Hackleman reported live from Zilker Park again last night during the evening news with a story about preparations by Austin Fire Deparment for the crowds expected for the Austin City Limits Festival that runs today through Sunday.

Our own Neighborhood Watch chairman John Luther was interviewed and included in the story, describing actions residents of Barton Hills are taking to heighten awareness of the fire danger. Luther said “The fire danger is extreme The greenbelt is rugged. It would difficult to get fire equipment in there, if not impossible.”

City officials held a press conference Thursday morning at Zilker Park where Austin Police Lt. Todd Smith stated “This is about the most dangerous place in Austin where a fire could start and it could really cause a lot of damage.” Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said ,”Yes we are concerned. Yes we are prepared. We’re staffing up additional brush trucks.”

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The Barton Hills Neighborhood Association issued a press release Sept. 15 describing the campaign to inform visitors attending the Austin City Limits Music Festival about the extreme fire danger in our community. In addition to placing signs at strategic entry points to the greenbelt and throughout the neighborhood, residents will be on high alert for any evidence of fire and have been instructed to call 911 in the event smoke is seen or smelled.

BHNA Vice President Melissa Hawthorne stated “We are very pleased with the cooperation demonstrated by the ACL Festival producers, C3 Presents, Austin Parks and Recreation, Austin’s first responders and local media to elevate this issue and help enforce the burn ban in the park. We want to insure people understand the extremely dry conditions and the affect a fire would have to our community.”

You can read the entire press release here.

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