Even though the long summer days are numbered we’re still in the heart of mosquito season. It’s a precarious time when the threat of mosquito-borne diseases is on everyone’s mind. Last year the Zika virus was added to the list of diseases, but what about this mosquito season? Do you still need to worry about Zika and other illnesses?
Here’s a quick update on what to watch out for this season, what health experts are doing to combat mosquito-borne illness and what you need to know to keep yourself protected.
Mosquitoes Engineered to Reduce the Mosquito Population
California isn’t known for mosquitoes like Alabama and the rest of the southeast. But this summer there are 20 million more buzzing around, and scientists aren’t worried about it. In fact, all those mosquitoes were purposely released in the Fresno area as a part of the Debug Fresno project.
Verily Life Sciences, one of Google’s sister companies, sterilized male mosquitoes by infecting them with a bacterium called Wolbachia. The hope is that this will help reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito population. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are top illness offenders. They transmit Zika, dengue and chikungunya. The idea is that female mosquitoes will mate with the sterile male mosquitoes thus breaking the reproduction cycle.
Not only that, Wolbachia should spread quickly through the mosquito population. This would be good news for two reasons. First, reproduction would be slowed even further. Second, Wolbachia helps to prevent mosquitoes from carrying the Zika virus.
One million non-biting sterile male mosquitoes are being released each week for a 20-week span. Similar strategies have also been used this year in the Florida Keys. Scientists believe that the experiment in Fresno will dramatically reduce the population over time. If they’re correct the strategy could be used all over the U.S. to help combat biting mosquitoes.
The Aedes Aegypti Mosquito Population is on the Rise
Mosquito control is a top priority across the country for a very good reason. The Aedes aegypti mosquito population is on the rise. This species used to be rather isolated to the hottest, most humid parts of the U.S. However, between the spring and fall of last year, a CDC study found that the mosquitoes were in 38 new counties. That’s a 21% increase over the previous year.
Both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes were a part of the study since they both transmit the Zika virus. The CDC found that 127 new counties had Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which is a 10% increase.
The research shows that state health departments, local health departments and the general population need to continue to make improvements in controlling mosquitoes.
Current Status of Mosquito-Borne Illnesses in the U.S.
The CDC tracks mosquito-borne illnesses within the U.S., which serves as a barometer for state and local health departments. Their research has revealed a few silver linings.
Even though Zika became an issue last year, the CDC has tracked cases since January 1, 2015. In total, there have been 5,392 symptomatic cases reported in the country. But if you hone in on 2017 that number looks much better.
- There have been just 175 reported cases since January 1, 2017.
- 174 of those cases involved people who had traveled and become infected in another country.
- As of this writing, the CDC has had no reported cases of anyone getting the Zika virus in the U.S. through mosquito transmission this year.
That data suggests great strides have already been made it controlling Zika outbreaks.
The other mosquito-borne illness that can pose a threat in the U.S. is West Nile virus. As of July 18, 2017, the CDC has had 46 reported cases of West Nile. Of those, there has only been one death. We’re happy to report none of the cases happened in Alabama.
Compare that to 2016, which had 2,038 West Nile virus cases, 15 of which were reported in Alabama. The data again suggests that stepped up efforts to control mosquitoes is paying off.
The team at Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can help you make your yard a mosquito-free zone. Give us a call to learn more about our custom pest control treatments that handle all of your insect issues.