Damage after an EF-3 tornado hit Carl Junction / Courtesy Congressman Billy Long

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Mosquitoes are challenging volunteers helping in recovery and cleanup efforts after a tornado outbreak slammed southwest Missouri.

State health officials have warned about mosquitoes after heavy rain in the region, the Joplin Globe reported.

The insects are a nuisance and can carry disease.

“Nuisance mosquitoes are usually the first populations to take advantage of flooded conditions,” said Howard Pue, of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “They can be big, really numerous and inflict painful bites. Some varieties, people might not even notice the bites. But those populations begin to die down as waters recede.”

Gary Stubblefield, a volunteer coordinator for recovery and cleanup efforts, said the volunteers cleaning up after an EF-3 tornado struck parts of Carl Junction on May 22 have asked for repellent contributions since their second day at the site.

“We noticed them getting worse after the tornado, as people cut down trees,” he said. “We realized the need for bug repellent for our volunteers, and we’ve continued to put out a plea for it.”

Organizers have handed out hundreds of cans, and more is needed, Stubblefield added.

The Department of Health and Environment in neighboring Kansas is encouraging residents to clear standing water that could become a breeding ground for the insects.

Wading pools, buckets and other containers should be drained and kept on their sides when they are not being used.

Water in pet dishes and bird baths should also be frequently changed, and standing water anywhere should be cleared.

Given the correct habitat, mosquitoes can reproduce in 10 days, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

People are advised to shield themselves from bites by wearing protective clothing, reducing activity during dusk and dawn hours and using a repellent that contains DEET or other EPA-authorized chemicals.