We all know there are several bad diseases spread by mosquitoes. In fact, mosquitoes are considered to be the deadliest animals on Earth because every year more people die from mosquito-borne illnesses than any other cause.
Luckily, most people living in the U.S. don’t have to worry about diseases like malaria, encephalitis, dengue, or filariasis unless traveling to other countries. There also has not been a yellow fever outbreak in the U.S. for several decades. However, there are some mosquito-borne diseases we do need to be concerned about. West Nile virus now occurs in all continental states, and a few cases of chikungunya have occurred over the past couple of years in the southeast.
U.S. officials have also issued a new travel alert for people heading to Central and South America due to the rapid spreading of the Zika virus. The symptoms of Zika virus are relatively mild (fever, headache, rash), however it could cause birth defects to occur in pregnant women. There have already been a few cases of the virus reported in the U.S. It is spread by the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) which are very prevalent in the southeast.
Currently, the Zika virus is a concern for those traveling overseas and when warm wet weather prompts mosquitoes to emerge the Zika virus will become more of a threat at home. Being proactive in reducing mosquito populations in your yard can help prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses. Follow these steps:
- Dispose of old tires, buckets, drums, bottles, or any water holding containers.
- Clean debris from rain gutters to allow proper drainage.
- Fill in or drain low places (puddles, ruts) in the yard.
- Keep drains, ditches, and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water can flow properly.
- Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater.
- Check around outdoor faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or puddles.
- Empty plastic wading pools at least once per week and store indoors when not in use.
- Ensure swimming pool is properly cared for, even when you are away from home.
- Fill in tree holes and hollow stumps that hold water with sand or concrete.
- Empty and replace the water in birdbaths, plant pots or drip trays at least once per week.
- Keep grass cut and shrubbery well trimmed around the house where adult mosquitoes may rest.
- Stock ornamental pools with top feeding predacious minnows.
- To seal out mosquitoes, ensure that window and door screens are in good condition.
Additional precautions to consider during periods of peak mosquito activity (warm weather months):
- Wear light colored clothing, long sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Use insect repellants.