It’s getting warmer and there is more talk about the Zika virus every day. Who has it? How are we getting it? And most importantly will this become a problem for us in Wilmington and Myrtle Beach? The answers are difficult because they seem to be constantly changing, so let’s focus on what we know today.
1: According to the CDC, as of March 23rd there are 273 reported cases on US soil. All of these are travel associated. However in the US territories of Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, of the 345 reported cases, 341 have been locally acquired. The World Health Organization estimates 3 to 4 million people will be infected within the next year.
2: The Zika virus causes cold and flu-like symptoms, if any, in most people. However it is being linked to birth defects transmitted from infected pregnant women to their unborn children and to the paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome in infected people. It can be transmitted by mosquito bite, from mother to unborn child, through blood transfusion, or by sexual contact.
3.There is not yet any vaccine for the Zika virus. Prevention only exists in avoiding mosquito bites.
The fact that mosquitoes are disease carrying pests is not news. Entomologist Marten Edwards from Muhlenberg College in Allentown PA says, "It’s (speaking of the Aedes aegypti mosquito) been with us for a long time, probably for at least 5,000 years when we started keeping water next to our homes [ideal for laying eggs] and it’s adapted to people.” However not all mosquitoes carry Zika so let’s define what we know even further.
Zika Transmitting Mosquitoes
Most cases of Zika are spread by 2 types of mosquitoes, the Aedes Aegypti and the Aedes Albopictus (Asian Tiger Mosquito). These mid-sized (2 – 10mm) varieties are black with white spots or stripes and are common in the Southeast United States. They are the same mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, dengue, and chikungunya virus. US News and World Report describes them as “very resilient, and their eggs can literally survive in a bottle cap of water. " The eggs are also said to survive without water even in winter, simply waiting for the needed conditions to hatch. These mosquitoes bite throughout the day, not just at dusk and dawn as some varieties are known to do. They tend to be sneaky when they bite, attacking your ankles and the backs of your legs and arms so that you may not see them coming.
But as we have said, our information is ever changing. So as we have been told that these are the two transmitters of Zika, there is new research out of Brazil that suggests the Culex mosquito can also be a carrier. This is one of the most common mosquitoes in the United States. Different from the Aedes varieties, they bite at dusk and dawn and they prefer dirty water over clean. This research seems to point towards the possibility that the Culex mosquito could be infected with Zika, and might also reproduce the virus in their salivary glands — which is key to passing the virus to humans. It is important to understand this is only in the research stages and there is no definitive proof as of yet.
All of this information may seem confusing and slightly scary, especially since it seems to change daily. Our biggest question is, “What do we do?” At Mosquito Squad of Wilmington and Mosquito Squad of the Grand Strand, we can help answer that question. Prevention and protection are the keys. First, we point you to our 5 Tips on discouraging these harmful mosquitoes from your yard. It is important to be proactive and rid your yard of the things that attract mosquitoes to begin with. Second our traditional barrier treatment will eliminate 85-90% of all mosquitoes and ticks on your property.