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They're back! Mosquitoes swarm Bemidji area

BEMIDJI -- The return of our summer weather this past weekend also brought back those wonderful summertime residents -- mosquitoes.

And while a mosquito's bite can be painful and irritating, it can also be detrimental to your health.

Mosquitoes may carry many diseases, which they can transmit to humans through their bites. These diseases can result in sickness and may sometimes be fatal. One of the most dangerous diseases carried by the pests is the infamous West Nile Virus, which is a main concern for the Minnesota Department of Health.

West Nile, which spread from the Middle East to the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s, causes flu-like symptoms and can be deadly to elderly people and anyone with a compromised immune system.

There were 79 cases of West Nile statewide in 2013, with three fatalities, according to the state health department. No cases were reported in Beltrami County.

Dave Neitzel, supervisor of vector borne diseases at the MDH, said the mosquito population in Minnesota is difficult to predict. "There are no agencies that monitor mosquitoes across the state," Neitzel said.

The state's mosquito population depends on precipitation. Mosquitoes use standing water as a breeding ground and the larvae depend on the water to mature.

Here's what you can do to protect yourself from mosquito bites as well as help to prevent mosquito-borne viruses:

• Use repellant: The MDH advises people to wear insect repellant, specifically repellent containing DEET, as a "first line of defense" against mosquitoes.

• Time: Be aware of times mosquitoes are the most active, such as dawn and dusk. Mosquito season usually peaks during the months of July through August.

• Cover up: The Center for Disease Control advises people to wear long sleeves and pants when the weather permits.

• Get rid of standing water: The CDC also advises residents to "empty standing water from flower pots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and bird baths" on a regular basis. Standing water is a natural breeding ground for mosquitoes.

For more information about risks posed by mosquitoes and the what you can do to protect yourself, vist