Are you like me and feel as though you’re a magnet for mosquitoes? Are you concerned about contracting one of the many illnesses mosquitoes have been known to transmit? What’s all this buzz about the Zika virus?
Zika is dangerous for pregnant women
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus acquired by locals and travelers in Central and South American regions. Infected adults may show symptoms such as fever, rash, headaches, and/or red eyes, but many will have no symptoms. The problem with Zika is that it has devastating consequences for a developing fetuses. A pregnant woman can pass the Zika virus to her fetus, where it can result in a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Pregnant women can be infected with the Zika virus if they are bitten by an infected mosquito or through sexual contact with an infected male partner.
The mosquito that transmits Zika isn’t in Nebraska
The main mosquito that transmits the Zika virus is the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This species, when infected, can transmit dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Their geographical range is mostly tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates, and their natural range does not include Nebraska.
In the United States and its associated territories, we have seen cases of local transmission in American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Outside of those areas though, the only cases to be found involve travelers that have recently visited South America. This summer, Lancaster county will be trapping for mosquitoes and monitoring for the presence of the mosquito that could carry Zika. On a broader scale, the federal government is implementing a new budget to help discover Zika in the US and prevent its spread.
Although we are not on high alert for Zika, Nebraskans do need to prevent bites from the Culex mosquitoes that carry and transmit West Nile virus. These mosquitoes acquire West Nile from infected birds and transmit it to humans via saliva when they feed with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. The number of cases, as well as deaths have been tracked and recorded by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services since 2002. People infected with West Nile virus may show no symptoms; some may suffer mild flu-like symptoms, and less than 1% of cases will develop a serious illness. There are no medications to treat or vaccines at this time to prevent the West Nile virus infection.
So to recap:
- Not all mosquitoes transmit the Zika virus.
- The mosquitoes that transmit Zika do not live in Nebraska.
- Mosquitoes in Nebraska can transmit West Nile Virus.
You can prevent and control mosquitoes in your yard
The best way to avoid any pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes is to prevent being bitten. Like any pest management program, IPM is the strategy that works best to prevent mosquito bites at home in the yard. Sanitation is a must to eliminate breeding sites and harborage locations of mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay eggs on the surface of standing water and the larvae (“wigglers”) require water to survive before pupation. Removal of stagnant water in a variety of containers such as flowerpots, buckets, gutters, pool covers, used tires, and dog bowls will break the mosquito life cycle. A general rule is to dump any water that has been standing for more than five days.
Culex mosquitoes are active biters in the evening, so it is important to wear long sleeves and pants or permethrin-treated clothing when outdoors between dusk and dawn. The effective insect repellents applied to skin include those with the active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, or the oil of lemon eucalyptus.
As far as chemical control, Mosquito Dunks® contain the active ingredient bacterium, Bacillus thurengiensis israelensis (Bti), which is toxic to mosquito larvae when consumed, but non-toxic to humans, pets, pollinators, fish, and other wildlife. They are sold in hardware stores, and will dissolve in standing water such as water troughs, fishponds, rain barrels, and birdbaths. They are effective immediately and can last for a month. We do not recommend the use of foggers or adulticide treatments by homeowners.
If you want to learn more about the Zika virus, its transmission, symptoms, and efforts to control it, please check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for the most current information.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln implies no endorsement of any company listed nor non-endorsement of a company not listed.