The Zika virus, along with other mosquito-transmitted illnesses, makes it evident that mosquito populations can be serious health hazards. The best way to prevent Zika from impacting your family is doing what you can to protect them from mosquito bites. That includes repelling the biting insects and keeping their populations from growing.
The good news is the U.S. is well-equipped to control mosquitoes. But we all have a role to play.
The most effective prevention method is a team approach – involving you and your community, public health and vector control officials, and professional applicators.
In early 2016, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global public health threat and serious concern for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant. The virus is active in 50 countries and thought to be responsible for a range of birth defects. The Zika virus can cause symptoms ranging from mild fever and joint pain to a skin rash or conjunctivitis.
The Zika virus is spread to people who are bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. They are also commonly known as yellow fever mosquitoes.
In 2015, cases of the Zika virus were confirmed in the Americas and Caribbean. These mosquitoes are found primarily in the southern part of the country, but have the potential to reach as far north as Connecticut. Initially, the virus was not expected to travel outside of the southern region of the U.S., but recent cases and the ability for the virus to spread from person to person, expands the areas impacted by the virus. To view maps of the expected range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/vector/range.html.
The Centers for Disease Control shares more about the Zika virus, including how the virus is diagnosed and how it is treated. Learn more by visiting: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/index.html.
What is an Aedes aegypti mosquito?
Aedes isn’t your typical mosquito. Here are a few of its distinct characteristics and quick facts to help you spot these pests:
- Aedes lay eggs in containers with standing water found in bowls, cups, fountains, tires, vases, and even pools of water as tiny those collected in bottle caps.
- Aedes are typically found in or around your house. These mosquitoes are able to breed indoors where there is less variation of climate, which typically elongates their lifespan. The mosquitoes tend to gravitate towards the dark, humid places in your house under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
- Aedes prefer to live near people, meaning they actively look for ways to get inside your home and living spaces. They only fly a few blocks during their lifetime. Actively managing and eliminating their local habitat in and around your home is very important.
- Aedes are daytime biters. While we often think of mosquitoes as being active at dawn and dusk, this pest bites all day long.
How can the Zika virus spread?
According to the CDC, there are four ways the Zika virus can be transmitted:
- Mosquito bites: Zika-infected Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes transmit the virus to people through bites.
- Mother to child: Mothers who contract the Zika virus pass it on to their child.
- Sexual contact: Zika virus can be spread between partners during intimacy since it can remain in semen longer than blood.
- Blood transfusion: Because most people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms, blood donors may donate their blood to others without knowing they have been infected. To date, there are no confirmed blood transfusion transmission cases in the U.S; however, there have been multiple reported cases of blood transfusion transmission in Brazil.
Health officials are still in the process of determining how long the virus can remain in a person’s system, so if you are planning to travel to countries where the virus is active, please be mindful of how Zika can spread and contact your physician if you have any questions. To learn more about Zika transmission, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/index.html.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, headache, rash, joint and muscle pain, and red eyes. Many people do not show symptoms, so those infected with the virus may not know they have it. There is now a blood test that can be administered by your doctor, and researchers are continuing to search for ways to detect the virus sooner.
While researchers continue to search for additional prevention methods, there is currently no vaccine for Zika. For more information about the Zika vaccine development, visit: http://bit.ly/25aBPD0.
To learn more about the Zika virus signs and symptoms, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html.
Protect your family and your community from the Zika virus by doing your part in and around your home to prevent mosquito bites. We recommend a few simple steps to help control mosquitoes in your home, yard and community:
- Put up personal barriers. Wear light-colored clothing and cover up with long sleeves and pants. While many mosquitoes are particularly active during dawn and dusk hours, Aedes mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus, bite all day long.
- Reinforce your home. Mosquitoes will fly through the smallest openings to enter your home. Make sure cracks and crevices screens on doors and windows that could serve as entry points are sealed in good repair to keep the pests outside.
- Apply mosquito-specific defenses. Apply EPA-approved insect repellent, such as DEET, on exposed skin, especially your legs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a variety of safe and effective EPA-approved repellents for you and your family. Read and follow all the label instructions on repellents before applying them
- Eliminate standing water. Aedes mosquitoes can breed in containers as small as a bottle cap. When cleaning up around your home, remove old tires, and empty any cans, buckets, bottles, clogged rain gutters, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpot saucers, and plastic wading pools, which attract mosquitoes and give them a place to breed.
Tips for Safely Applying Personal Repellents
Personal repellents with a higher percentage of active ingredients such as DEET, recommended by the CDC, will provide longer protection. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves personal repellents with proven efficacy against mosquitoes and offers a search tool to help you choose the right product for your specific needs. EPA-approved repellents work best when you used properly:
- When selecting and applying repellents on yourself or your children always read and follow all label directions for safe and effective application.
- Select a repellent that repels your target pest. Learn which pests are repelled by reading the product label.
- Avoid over-application. Reapply repellents according to the label instructions.
To learn more about effective EPA-approved mosquito repellents and when to use them, visit: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents
Controlling dangerous and nuisance pests plays an important part in keeping our families and communities healthy and safe. Understanding and doing your part to manage pests in backyards, playgrounds and parks, helps protect all of us from disease and distress. Without effective mosquito control, these particular pests would wreak havoc on our families and communities, transmitting West Nile virus, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya – and possibly Zika virus. Each of us can do our part this season to protect our families and support public health mosquito control in our neighborhoods.
Here’s what you need to know about:
- Looking for mosquito breeding sites
- Keeping mosquitoes out
- Repelling mosquitoes What to ask when hiring a professional to treat your yard
Mosquito Life Cycle
Know when to Knock Out Mosquitoes
It’s time for a little biology lesson. Understanding the mosquito life cycle is important if you want to keep these insects from making your home their own.
All mosquitoes go through four stages:
- Stage 1: Egg that hatches when it’s exposed to water
- Stage 2: Larva is a small “wriggler” that lives in water
- Stage 3: Pupa is larger than larva and is still in the water but it does not feel
- Stage 4: Adult leaves the water and is able to fly shortly after
A mosquito typically lives up to two weeks, but can live as long as one month depending on conditions. For example, eggs can survive longer in dry conditions.
Effective control relies upon removal of breeding sites and monitoring and treating for mosquitoes in each of the four stages of development.
Make Your Yard Less Hospitable
Finding and removing mosquito breeding sites
Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquito larvae can survive in many unexpected – and easily unnoticed – locations. These are the mosquitoes that can transmit Zika virus.
Check all areas of your yard for standing water, including in open trash bins, tree knot holes, bird baths, clogged rain gutters, uncovered boats, potted plant saucers, pet bowls, and neglected swimming pools, which are all great breeding sites. Even a capful of water trapped in a favorite toy can lead to a population boom.
Aedes mosquitoes are primarily container breeders, which means they can reproduce in even the smallest pools of standing water in a bottle cap left unturned. Taking time to do mosquito control as part of your everyday lawn care regimen can help prevent these pests from staking claim over your home or yard.. Effective control includes mowing your yard regularly to reduce tall grass that locks in water between the blades and provides conditions conducive to mosquito breeding.
Find out more about potential mosquito breeding sites, visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/
Keep mosquitoes out
In a recent USA Today article, experts predicted this year’s warm and wet weather will likely contribute to increased populations of mosquitoes across the U.S. But don’t let recent outbreaks and emerging threat of Zika virus deter you from spending time outdoors. Taking steps to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes and becoming familiar with the Aedes mosquitoes can help protect you and your family:
- Keep pests out by sealing your home. Seal any holes or cracks in doors and screens – mosquitoes can fit through the tiniest holes.
- Plant your garden away from exterior doors. Plant shrubs and ornamental plants away from doors and windows to ensure mosquitoes a place to hide while they wait for access to the indoors.
- Limit mosquito-friendly breeding locations around your home. Remove all standing water in bird baths, buckets, flower pots or even the smallest amount in bottle caps.
- Cut your grass. Mow your lawn regularly to remove hiding places for mosquitoes and reduce excess moisture in your grass.
Options for yard treatment (DIY)
Weeds and shrubs are mosquitoes’ safe haven. You can reduce mosquitoes in your yard by:
- Weeding and mowing the lawn regularly, which helps reduce mosquitoes’ ideal habitat.
- Incorporating mosquito control into your lawn care routine by taking an integrated approach, including removing sources of standing water, mowing and weed control.
- Applying mosquito treatments. Select an EPA-approved do-it-yourself product labeled to control Aedes mosquitoes and read and follow all label directions when applying the product.
- Contacting your local extension office, or mosquito control district if you have questions.
When apply mosquito control products to your yard or garden, make sure to:
- Always read and follow all label directions
- Choose an EPA-approved product to ensure the product will work as intended on the target pest
- To learn more about control products and their application visit: https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/dos-and-donts-pest-control
Integrated Mosquito Control: A thoughtful, effective approach
If you are having trouble controlling the mosquitoes on your property, your public health department is a good resource for information. Public health mosquito control takes an integrated mosquito control approach to help reduce mosquito habitat and determine the most effective treatment throughout the mosquito life cycle to keep our families and communities safe. Integrated mosquito control uses a variety of tools and methods, including:
- Monitoring populations through surveillance programs
- Reducing mosquito breeding sites such as old tires, and empty any cans, buckets, bottles, clogged rain gutters, and birdbaths
- Treating mosquitoes in the larval stage before they are able to fly
- Treating adult mosquitoes to reduce the existing population
Hiring a professional? Here’s what you need to know.
As you take steps to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, you may consider reaching out to a professional to treat your property. When selecting a professional, be sure to ask questions that help you understand whether or not they approach mosquito control with an integrated solution, their experience, and their training and licensing.
Here are a few questions you may want to consider when talking to a professional applicator:
- Are you a licensed applicator?
- How long have you been in business?
- How long have your been treating for mosquitoes?
- What training has your team completed specific to mosquito control?
- What will the treatment be and what do I need to know about it?
Helping community health officials
Virtually every city in the U.S. is conducting mosquito surveillance activities to ensure residents are safe from the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. If you have concerns about the types of mosquitoes living where you live, contact your local mosquito control district. More information can be found at https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol.
Mosquito control districts also provide information about surveillance, the products they use for mosquito control, application times, the type of mosquitoes in your area and information about their habitat. Cooperating with mosquito control workers in your community by allowing them to conduct surveillance and apply their knowledge to your home and community will help them do their job to protect us from mosquito-borne diseases..
Learn more on how your local mosquito control service performs, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html.
To find out where your local mosquito control district is located and how to contact them, visit: http://npic.orst.edu/vecmlr.html.
SURVEY: Learning About Preventing Mosquito Bites
We want to be a resource for all of your questions and concerns around preventing mosquito bites and mosquito-borne illnesses. We want to help you and your family feel confident about mosquito control. In order to provide the most helpful information, our association fielded a telephone survey to more than 1,000 people in the U.S. asking how they plan to protect themselves and their families from being bitten by mosquitoes.
Here’s what we found:
- Insect repellent is the most common form of protection against mosquitoes.
- More than 81 percent of respondents said their first step to protect against mosquito bites is mosquito repellent. EPA-approved mosquito repellents are a great way to keep you and your family safe from the pests, but don’t forget to check out these tips to get the most from your repellent and stay safe while you do it. Visit the EPA’s insect repellent information for more details.
- Most parents intend to use repellent and/or insect-repellent clothing on their children.
- Make sure your kids are protected when they are out and about, especially campers. Dress them in light-colored clothing and cover up with long sleeves and pants. EPA-approved mosquito repellents and treated clothing will help get the job done.
- The vast majority of U.S. adults are not changing travel plans due to the Zika virus threat.
- Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said they are not considering canceling their travel plans due to the Zika virus. If your vacation is moving forward as planned, be sure to visit the CDC for more information about travel notices.
The first locally acquired cases of the Zika virus in the continental U.S. were reported at the end of July, and several travel-related cases have been reported throughout the country. To keep up-to-date on the status of the Zika virus in the U.S., check out the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for the latest information about cases in your state or region.
If you are planning to travel to one of the regions where the Zika virus is currently active, review travel health notices from the CDC before taking off on your trip. All CDC travel health notices can be found at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
Before you head out-of-town, be sure to:
- Clean it. Make sure your lawn is mowed before heading out-of-town for extended periods of time. Mosquitoes tend to make overgrown areas home.
- Dump it. If you have areas or items in your yard that collect water when it rains, don’t forget to remove them, so they don’t become a mosquito breeding ground.
- Lock it. Keep all doors and windows closed, so mosquitoes don’t use your vacation days as a vacation of their own.
Access these additional resources for more information: