Zika Virus Conerns PMPs in Virginia

Are you, or someone you know headed south for Spring Break? Next to your flip flops, sunscreen and bathing suit, be sure to pack your insect repellent! If you are going to Mexico, South or Central America or the Caribbean – including Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, be aware that the Zika virus, a disease causing pathogen spread to humans through mosquito bites, is gaining momentum through local transmission. This means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with Zika virus, spreading it to people. For further information, consult travel advisories published by the US Centers for Disease Control at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-information.

In addition to the illness associated with the virus, there is great concern about the virus’ potential effects in pregnant women as there is mounting evidence of a link to microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development in infants. The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come out in force to promote public attention to this matter and in a statement from the White House, "The President emphasized the need to accelerate research efforts to make available better diagnostic tests, to develop vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure that all Americans have information about the Zika virus."

Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes genus of mosquitoes, which is the same mosquito species that carries dengue fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the primary carriers, but Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, might also transmit the virus, and is found much farther north in the summer. There are confirmed cases in the U.S. including FL, TX, NY, NJ and more. It is understood that all of the individuals obtained the disease while traveling to countries where Zika virus is endemic.

To help address these concerns, as well as concerns about any of the mosquito borne illnesses that we are faced with, the Virginia Pest Management Association (VPMA), along with its national partner, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has developed a website at www.pestworld.com to provide consumers with information about management and control of mosquito populations. In addition, www.vpmaonline.com has a searchable list of VPMA member companies for consumers needing a professional pest management firm.

If you are travelling to Zika affected areas, what can you do to protect yourself?

  • The bottom line is - Use insect repellent on exposed skin whenever or wherever mosquitoes are likely to bite. The most effective repellents currently available contain the active ingredient DEET in concentrations of at least 20% (higher percentages provide longer protection), picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.
  • If you are using sunscreen and insect repellent at the same time, apply sunscreen first.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants preferably treated with repellant as well.
  • Sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

The type of mosquito that carries Zika virus is a daytime biter, so taking preventive measures at all times of the day is crucial.

While Zika virus is not being spread through local transmission in the U.S., there are things consumers can do now to help reduce the spread of other mosquito borne illnesses at home:

  • Contact a local Pest Management Professional. They can help homeowners reduce their exposure to mosquito bites by inspecting properties for breeding sites, treating to control mosquitoes in some cases or suggesting corrective actions, and educating homeowners and businesses about mosquitoes.
  • Eliminate or reduce mosquito-breeding areas by replacing all standing water at least once per week. This includes birdbaths, ponds and unfiltered pools.
  • Remove unneeded vegetation or trash from around any standing water sources that cannot be changed, dumped or removed.
  • Introduce mosquito-eating fish such as gambusia, green sunfish, bluefish and minnows to standing water.
  • Seal and screen all windows, doors, and other openings.
  • Avoid going outdoors when and where mosquitoes are most active: during dusk or dawn.

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VPMA is a professional organization of approximately 250 member companies employing over 3000 people throughout Virginia and generating over $280 million in annual revenues. It is dedicated to promoting the interests and general welfare of the pest management industry and to supporting scientific, technical and business research in the areas of pest management. For more information, please call our Executive Director, Andrea Coron, at 877/875-8722 or visit our website at www.vpmaonline.com.