Hardly a day goes by without hearing the latest news about the Zika virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika can be transmitted through bites from an infected Aedes species of mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), from a mother to her fetus; through sexual contact between an infected man and his partners; and through blood transfusion. The symptoms associated with the virus include fever, red eyes, rash or joint pain. While most otherwise healthy adults will make a full recovery from infection, small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at risk for serious complications. Most heartbreakingly, Zika can cause serious birth defects for pregnant women. At the moment, there is no specific medicine to treat the disease, says the CDC.
Jim Swayne, the founder of Safer Home Services in Clearwater, says that in his line of work he’s experienced previous mosquito-borne threats such as West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue fever and malaria. “The threats that we’ve dealt with before were handled very adequately by our large mosquito control organizations,” he says. “Zika, however, has a real chance to become a pandemic or become a serious problem, because the mosquitoes that carry Zika are local mosquitoes. They don’t normally travel more than a quarter mile from their breeding site. They’re daytime fliers, so they’re more active when we’re out in the middle of the day. ”
Zika Comes North
When Zika first made news in the U.S., the virus had mostly affected parts of Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean—and for a time cast attention on last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio. But what was once a problem overseas has found its way into the U.S.. Last July, officials announced four cases of Zika infection likely caused by mosquitoes in Florida, The New York Times reported. According to the Florida Department of Health, as of October 31 there have been a total of 771 cases of travel-related and 183 cases of non-travel related Zika infections in Florida. (Overall in the U.S., there has been a total of 3,951 cases of Zika associated with travel, while 139 have been acquired locally as of October 19, says the CDC). The aftermath of the Florida announcement reportedly prompted concerns about how the virus would affect the state’s tourism and the real estate industry.
Florida’s pest control pros have taken notice of the Zika problem, and spoke with us about how they conduct inspections and treatments of mosquitoes problems, and how homeowners can protect themselves from future mosquito issues.
Like most people, these pest experts first heard about Zika on the news. “There are many diseases associated with mosquitoes,” says Doug Longfellow, the president of NaturZone Pest Control, based in Sarasota. “This one has just gotten more press because of the birth defects,” he says. Adds Coby McConnell, the owner and president of Coby’s Tentless Termite and Pest Control in Palm Harbor: “When we first started hearing about it, it was ‘Okay, what’s the big deal?’ And then it got worse and worse and worse. And yes, we’ve monitored this on a very regular basis. If you look at our website and our Facebook page, we have put up quite a few articles on Zika.”