The summer of 2016 brought the first confirmed case of locally transmitted Zika virus in the United States. By year’s end, over 200 locally transmitted cases had been documented, with another 4,700 travel-related cases. Of the local transmissions, 213 were in Florida, with an additional three in Texas and three in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“So,” you ask, “what does that mean for Southern states like Alabama this year?”
What We Know
Since Zika’s landfall in the United States, researchers have stepped up efforts to understand exactly how Zika spreads—not only from mosquitoes to humans but also from mosquitoes to their young. What they do know is that:
1. Two species of mosquitoes are the primary carriers and transmitters of the Zika virus—Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Both are known for carrying other diseases, such as dengue, yellow and chikungunya fever. Just as infected females are able to transmit those diseases to their offspring, they can also convey the Zika virus to their eggs and young. This viral transfer significantly increases the infected mosquito population capable of transmission.
2. While Alabama’s next-door neighbor, Florida, was the epicenter of the Zika outbreak in 2016, the ranges of the mosquitoes that transmit the virus extend well beyond the Sunshine State. Aedes aegypti is especially abundant in the Gulf Coast area; on range maps, Alabama is a red zone. Aedes albopictus, also known as the tiger mosquito, is the most common mosquito found in Alabama. However, both species are expanding northward, well into the northeastern states, upper Midwest and Southern Great Lakes areas.
3. Researchers are attempting to develop and test a viable Zika vaccine. Versions include:
– A DNA-based one similar to another developed for West Nile.
– One that uses a live but weakened version of the Zika virus.
– A genetically engineered version of a similar animal virus.
– One based on whole-particle inactivated Zika virus.
However, a viable vaccine remains years away.
4. In the meantime, Zika remains a serious virus that is easily transmitted through both mosquito-human contact as well as sexual person-to-person contact. Pregnant women remain especially vulnerable, as infection can cause birth defects, foremost among them microcephaly—an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain. Infants have also been born with eye defects, hearing deficits, Guillain-Barré syndrome and impaired growth.
5. Health professionals and researchers caution individuals living in or traveling to high-risk areas to take preventive measures:
– Wear protective clothing that offers coverage.
– Use insect repellent.
– Secure homes, lodgings and sleeping areas against mosquitoes by using screens and netting.
– Control mosquitoes both inside and outside of your home.
Controlling Mosquitoes Outside Your Home
In Alabama, mosquito season usually begins in early February, but it can vary. In short, once temperatures top 50 degrees, mosquitoes become active. When that happens, it’s time to:
– Empty standing water regularly or cover open containers.
– Repair any cracks, leaks or access points in water-bearing tanks.
– Use larvicide for nonpotable water storage.
– Apply sprays or mists where mosquitos rest.
– Monitor and reapply pesticides as needed.
Maintaining a mosquito-free home can be challenging in a warm, humid climate like Alabama. The average yard offers mosquitoes a multitude of places where they can hide, and heat and rain can make it a seemingly endless chore.
If you dream of having a mosquito-free home without all the work, MosquitoNix can help. We provide mosquito spraying services as well as complete mosquito misting systems. Call us, or visit our website today. This year, let MosquitoNix make your summer mosquito-free, pest-free and—best of all—worry-free.