Spring has arrived in Georgia. The trees are in bloom, tulips and daffodils are poking up from the ground, and the days are growing longer and warmer.
Another sure sign of spring – mosquitoes. They’ve spent the winter in egg stage and depending on temperature and rainfall will soon emerge going from egg to adult in a week to 10 days. Aside from being annoying, mosquitoes can carry disease. The Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) andAedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) can spread dengue, chikungunya or Zika viruses.
There are ongoing Zika outbreaks in nearly 40 countries and territories in the Americas, Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Mexico. Zika virus has been linked to serious birth defects in infants and studies are also being done to determine whether there is a connection between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes, which can be found in Georgia. Zika virus is passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people. Sexual transmission of Zika has also been documented.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in Zika virus infections in Brazil and neighboring countries since 2014,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “We must be cautious and we must take steps now to prevent Zika from spreading to Georgia or the U.S.”
So how can the spread of Zika virus infection be prevented in Georgia? It begins at home – both inside and outside.
Female mosquitoes lay several hundred eggs on the walls of water-filled containers – even a container as small as a bottle cap is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. When water covers the eggs, they hatch and become adults in about a week to 10 days. They bite primarily during the day and at dusk. A few infected mosquitoes can produce large outbreaks in a community and put families at risk of becoming sick.
If you have things in and around your home and yard that could hold water, get rid of them! One of the most effective ways to control the mosquito population is to eliminate standing water. After every rainfall and at least once a week, Tip ‘n Toss. Dump out standing water in flowerpots and planters, children’s toys, or trash containers. Do not allow water to accumulate in old tires, rain gutters, or piles of leaves or natural holes in vegetation. Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. For containers without lids and too big to Tip ‘N Toss (bird baths, pools), use larvicides such as mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes (they will not hurt birds or animals).
Trimming vegetation and cutting tall grass can help reduce the number of adult mosquito resting places. Community clean up campaigns, including free landfill or dump days or free trash pick-up days, encourage residents to clean up around their homes and are very effective in eliminating places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. The Georgia Department of Public Health is encouraging all Georgians to use the first two weeks of April to clean up around their homes and yards.
Adult mosquitoes live inside and outside so keep mosquitoes out of your home. Use screens on windows and doors, making sure they are in good repair and fit tightly. Use air conditioning when it’s available. Mosquitoes are not strong fliers, so using fans on porches and patios can also help reduce mosquito exposure.
It is important to use personal protection to avoid mosquito bites when engaging in outdoor activities. Wear lightweight long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks. Using EPA-registered insect repellents containing 20%-30% DEET or a product such as oil of lemon eucalyptus will reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
Controlling the mosquito population will take all Georgians – working together as neighbors, united in a common cause – to prevent the spread of Zika virus in the state.
By Connie F. Smith-Lindsey
April 4, 2016