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Rash of mosquito bites raises concerns for Coachella youth football league

Mosquito bites concern football league

COACHELLA, Calif. - Gearing up for practice in Coachella, players from the Little Arabs Football League need more than just pads and helmets before hitting the field at Bagdouma Park. They need bug spray.

"You scratch them, like really hard, until they turn into a cut and then you spray, and it burns," said a player.

Returning from Labor Day weekend, the team counts not just the number of jumping jacks but the dozens of mosquito bites from this week alone.

"A lot of these kids and parents, we got eaten alive," said John Ortiz, the president of the football league.

And some parents say it's been a nightmare.

"It's like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was bad," said Elvira Carrillo, of Coachella.

"When you're not able to participate because you're busy slapping and scratching. Then it becomes a major safety concern when you're not performing your duties on the field," said Ortiz.

The league took the issue to the city and the Coachella Valley's Mosquito and Vector Control District. The district says flooding at date groves over Labor Day weekend bred more mosquitoes in the area than usual.

The floodwater mosquito called Psorophora Columbiae reproduces quickly, growing from an egg to an adult in just 72 hours.

Technicians set 20 mosquito traps around the park on Thursday to help. Depending on how many mosquitoes they catch, experts are prepared to put out more if they have to.

"The good news is this is a mosquito, it's a pest, but it doesn't transmit any diseases in California," said Jeremy Wittie, the district's Scientific Operations Manager.

Yes, that includes the West Nile virus. Wittie says the number of mosquitoes in the Bagdouma Park area should die down in the next few days.

Until then, the athletes and their biggest fans will just keep spraying away.

The city says it will continue to inspect open spaces and monitor irrigation systems at the park to ensure there is no standing water.

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