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Vector Control collecting old tires

If you have old tires sitting in your yard, you may be harboring the kind of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.

The Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes collected in an area northeast of Central Point July 21, according to a news release. Jackson County Vector Control sets 42 adult mosquito traps routinely throughout Jackson County, baited with dry ice. It's the fourth year in a row the virus has been found in the county, though the last known human case here was in 2005.

Vector Control hopes to help county residents eliminate potential mosquito-breeding habitat by collecting tires for free disposal from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Friday, July 31, at its building, 555 Mosquito Lane — yes, really — in Central Point. Only automobile tires will be accepted, not those from semi trucks, tractors or other vehicles with oversized tires. Up to 10 tires per household will be accepted. 

Most people infected with West Nile virus do not become sick, though some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands and a rash. Rare cases of encephalitis — brain inflammation — have been reported, according to Jackson County Public Health. People older than 50 with weakened immune systems, diabetes or high blood pressure are more likely to be affected. 

Vector Control manager and biologist Jim Lunders said calls to deal with mosquitoes are down overall, but their presence continues to be a problem. Any objects that hold standing water for weeks at a time are prime real estate for the bloodsuckers, including buckets, old coffee cans, troughs, wheelbarrows, clogged gutters and, of course, tires. Such spots can hatch out hundreds of new mosquitoes per week.

"The species of mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus, they actually like those types of habitats," Lunders said. "Even with the drought, even with it being super dry, we're still seeing those kinds of sources every day when (we're) out in the field." 

Several other districts already have adopted tire disposal events, Lunders said, adding that the district has a private company lined up to dispose of the discarded rubber. 

Lunders encouraged area residents to continue taking steps to reduce mosquito numbers at their homes. This includes elimination of all sources of standing water. Troughs and ornamental ponds can be stocked with mosquito-eating fish, available for free at the district office. 

To reduce the likelihood of being bitten, avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when hiking or walking through infested areas, use repellants, and make sure all screen doors and windows fit tightly. 

"We're going to do everything we can to reduce mosquito populations," Lunders said. 

For more information, contact Vector Control at 541-826-2199 or see www.jcvcd.org

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.