This story originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of Georgia's Cities.
Spring has arrived in Georgia, bringing with it one of its sure sign – mosquitoes. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and GMA are encouraging cities to take action to reduce the state’s mosquito population.
These mosquitoes have spent the winter in egg stage and depending on temperature and rainfall will soon emerge, going from egg to adult in a week to 10 days. Mosquitoes of all types can spread diseases: Aedes aegypti
(the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus
(Asian tiger mosquito) can spread dengue, chikungunya or Zika viruses.
DPH is informing residents of ways to stop the virus both inside and outside. “Female mosquitoes lay several hundred eggs on the walls of water-filled containers, even a container as small as a bottle cap is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes,” said DPH Public Health Entomologist Rosmarie Kelly, PhD MPH. “When water covers the eggs, they hatch and become adults in about a week to 10 days. They bite primarily during the day and at dusk. A few infected mosquitoes can produce large outbreaks in a community and put families at risk of becoming sick.”
One of the most effective ways to control the mosquito population is to eliminate standing water. The department encourages all residents “Tip ‘n Toss” after every rainfall and at least once a week. “Dump out standing water in flowerpots and planters, children’s toys or trash containers. Do not allow water to accumulate in old tires, rain gutters or piles of leaves or natural holes in vegetation,” Kelly instructed. “Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. For containers without lids or are too big to “Tip ‘n Toss,” use larvicides such as mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes. These are not harmful to birds or animals.”
Trimming vegetation and cutting tall grass can also help reduce the number of adult mosquito resting places. Community clean up campaigns, including free landfill or dump days or free trash pick-up days, encourage residents to clean up around their homes and are very effective in eliminating places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. DPH encourages all Georgians to use the first two weeks of April to clean up around their homes and yards.
The city of Bainbridge has taken the lead in reducing its mosquito population. In early February, city workers began spraying nightly to control the mosquitoes. “It’s a little earlier than we usually spray, but we have to stay ahead of it,” said Bainbridge Public Services Director Stene Winburn. Officials have also ventured into the community to share cautionary measures with residents.
Adult mosquitoes can also live inside. Use screens on windows and doors, making sure they are in good repair and fit tightly. Use air conditioning when it’s available. Mosquitoes are not strong fliers, so using fans on porches and patios can also help reduce mosquito exposure.
Kelly stresses the importance of using personal protection to avoid mosquito bites when engaging in outdoor activities. She recommends wearing lightweight long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks, and using EPA-registered insect repellents containing 20-30 percent DEET or a product such as oil of lemon eucalyptus will reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
There are ongoing Zika outbreaks in nearly 40 countries and territories in the Americas, Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Mexico. Zika virus has been linked to serious birth defects in infants and studies are also being done to determine whether there is a connection between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
So far there are no reports of locally transmitted Zika cases in Georgia or anywhere in the United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.
Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes, which can be found in Georgia. The virus is passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people. Sexual transmission of Zika has also been documented.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in Zika virus infections in Brazil and neighboring countries since 2014,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “We must be cautious, and we must take steps now to prevent Zika from spreading to Georgia or the U.S.”
For more information about Zika virus, visit the DPH web site