Hampton biologist speaks about Zika virus
Throughout history, mosquitoes have transmitted some of the most important and deadly diseases known to man. Their role in carrying diseases such as malaria, West Nile, dengue, and chikungunya make mosquitoes arguably the most dangerous animals in the world. Worldwide, malaria alone accounts for more than 600,000 deaths each year, most of them are children under the age of five. Recently, the outbreak of another mosquito-borne illness, Zika virus, has dominated the national headlines. With the number of confirmed cases in the Americas on the rise, the public demand for widespread mosquito management has never been greater.
ZIKA Virus Disease
Zika virus disease (Zika) is caused by an emerging mosquito-borne virus that has no specific medical treatment or vaccine. The virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito in the Aedes genus, the same mosquito responsible for transmitting yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya viruses. The symptoms of the illness are generally mild, but Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly. In addition, infection may also be linked to neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in Uganda’s Zika forest, but the first human cases of Zika were not detected until 1952. In 2007, a large epidemic of Zika virus was reported in Yap Island and Guam, Micronesia. In 2013 and 2014 multiple epidemics were reported in several Pacific Islands. By May 2015, the Zika virus was reported in Brazil as well as several countries of South and Central America and the Caribbean. Only eight months later, Brazil totaled nearly 30,000 reported cases of infection. The virus is now widespread in Brazil, and is continuing to spread throughout the Americas as well as the Oceania and Pacific Islands. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Zika virus disease has been confirmed in 42 states, but there have been no locally acquired mosquito-borne cases reported as of April 2016.
Zeka Virus Vectors
The two most common mosquitoes found in the southern portion of the United States known to be vectors of the Zika virus are the yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes. The yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquito live in close association with humans, largely due to their preferences in breeding sites. Both species seek out natural and artificial water-holding containers such as tree holes, birdbaths, or plastic containers to lay their eggs. They can complete their lifecycle in as little as one half inch of water, making nearly any sized container a potential breeding site. After taking a blood meal, the female lays 100–200 black eggs (0.5 mm in length) in small batches, across multiple sites. Each egg is glued to the inner wall of a container, just above the waterline. Following a rain event, the water level rises, submerging the eggs, triggering them to hatch. If the container dries out, the eggs can survive drying out for eight months or more. Larval development is temperature dependent, but both species can reach adulthood in as little as seven days under ideal conditions.
The basic approach to controlling container-breeding mosquitoes involves a three-step process: inspection and surveillance, source reduction, and chemical control. When executed properly, this integrated strategy can provide effective and continuous management of mosquitoes in a given area by eliminating breeding sites and reducing adult populations. The following information will provide direction on conducting this three-step process when managing yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes. These two mosquito species are particularly well suited for local control on properties serviced by pest management professionals because of the mosquitoes’ propensity to breed in areas associated with humans and their limited dispersal range, rarely flying further than 100 meters from their larval development site.
The best indication that a site is producing mosquitoes is to confirm the presence of mosquito larvae. Begin by identifying water-holding containers that could serve as potential breeding sites such as empty pots, children’s toys, birdbaths, pets’ water bowls and tree holes. Once found, containers can be visually inspected for larvae. Source reduction focuses on eliminating mosquito-breeding sites. For these container-breeding mosquitoes, primary breeding sites can include many items that are commonly found in residential backyards. If water is present in a container for more than seven days in a row, mosquitoes can complete development and the container has the potential to breed mosquitoes. Inspect the property frequently for items such as bottles, barrels, old tires, or other vessels that may hold water and remove them if possible. Tipping over any water containing items regularly that cannot be removed will prevent larvae from making it to adulthood. Chemical control of container-breeding mosquitoes plays an important role in reducing both larval and adult populations in an area. Products intended to control the immature stages of mosquitoes are known as larvicides, while products used to control adults are known as adulticides. Larvicides can be applied directly into water-holding containers. Growth regulators do not kill mosquito larvae, but prevents them from developing into adults. Adulticides can be applied using a gas-powered backpack mist blower to treat adult mosquito resting places such as shrubbery and other vegetation with an appropriately labeled residual insecticide. Mist blower applications allow for the deposition of insecticide onto the underside of leaves and interior architecture of shrubs more effectively than compressed air sprayers. Foundation walls and the undersides of decks may also be treated, as adult yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes (as well as others), may rest there as well. Always read and follow all label instructions.
While the risk of Zika virus and other viruses transmitted by these mosquitoes is low, to prevent mosquito bites in general, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends applying EPA registered insect repellents containing the active ingredients DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 to exposed skin according to label instructions. When also using sunscreen, apply it before the repellent.
- For the latest information on the distribution of the yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes in the United States, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/resources/vector-control.html.
- For more information on the history of Zika virus, visit: http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/timeline/en/.
- For more information on the health effects of Zika virus, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html
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