Any pest problem is annoying, but mosquitoes are worrisome because they can threaten your health.
Recent news reports about eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus may have you particularly concerned. These frightening diseases have one common carrier: mosquitoes. You can’t catch them from another person, but one bite from an infected mosquito can be lethal.
Arming yourself with the right information and pest protection can help protect you and your family.
Mosquitoes arguably cause more human suffering than any other organism, killing more than one million people every year worldwide. These bloodsucking pests are diabolically effective disease carriers that can transmit illnesses like malaria, dengue fever, Zika and West Nile Virus by feeding on the blood of an infected bird, animal or human, and then carrying the pathogen in their saliva to their next meal. Mosquitoes can also carry diseases and parasites that harm pets and livestock, such as heartworm in dogs. That’s on top of the less dangerous, but more common mosquito-caused problem – red, itchy bumps that can drive you crazy.
The Ebb and Flow
You may notice that mosquito-borne diseases dominate the headlines one year, then seem to fall off the radar the next. That’s because weather is a leading factor in the mosquito population. Most mosquitoes live only two to three months In the U.S., mosquito season usually begins in early spring, peaks in the summer, and ends with the first freeze. In places that have warmer climates, they may be active year-round. An Indian summer, where dry warm weather occurs in late autumn, provides more opportunities for mosquitoes to breed and bite. Additionally, wet weather creates more standing water, and thus more mosquito breeding opportunities.
Hurricanes or floods can also produce a surge of mosquitos. While adult mosquitoes typically don’t survive the high winds of a hurricane, the flooding that follows can lead to prime breeding conditions or turn up eggs that were laid during previous floods. Eggs hatch into larvae in about 48 hours, causing mosquito populations to explode. Thankfully, most of these mosquitoes are nuisance mosquitoes – they typically don’t spread the viruses that make people sick.
If this has you concerned, it’s good to remember that transmission is localized; mosquitoes don’t travel very far in their short lifetimes. You can’t be infected unless you’re bitten by a mosquito that fed on someone or something nearby that was infected. The size of an outbreak, and whether it hits the news, depends in part on whether it occurred in a highly populated area.
Outbreaks Gone Viral
Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is the latest mosquito-borne disease story in the news. Health officials have reported an uptick in cases of this rare, but potentially fatal virus in central Florida in recent months, and a single case in Massachusetts in early August. Symptoms typically appear four to 10 days after a mosquito bite and begin with sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. In some cases, symptoms can progress to disorientation, seizures, coma, and in about one third of cases, death. There is no specific treatment, and while a vaccine is available for horses, there is none for humans.
West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. In 2019, so far, 128 cases of West Nile virus in 36 states have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About 1 in 5 people will develop flu-like symptoms; only 1 out of 150 develop a serious illness, which can be fatal. West Nile has been detected in many different types of mosquitoes.
Zika triggered alarm in 2015 when an outbreak hit central and South America and the Caribbean. Most people infected by Zika experience only mild symptoms; many don’t even know they’re infected. However, the virus can lead to severe birth defects, so it’s particularly worrisome for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. No local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in the continental United States in the last two years. However, if you are traveling outside of the continental U.S., you should be aware of destinations where Zika may pose a risk and take appropriate precautions. The CDC’s online Travelers’ Health page offers specific information.
Of all the mosquito-borne diseases, malaria is the biggest killer, mostly among children in sub-Saharan Africa. Mosquitoes transmit a parasite from one human to another in areas where the disease is prevalent. Thankfully, malaria is treatable and not common in the U.S. – about 1,700 cases are diagnosed each year, but most involve travelers from countries where malaria is widespread.
Fight the Bite
You can’t control the weather, but you can make sure mosquitoes don’t get a chance to bite with good home pest control. Take the following preventive measures to combat mosquitoes:
One of the most effective weapons in your pest defense strategy: eliminating standing water. Mosquitoes don’t need big puddles; a bottle cap full of water, left standing for a week or so, is enough for them to breed and multiply. Frequently inspect garbage cans, gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, flowerpots or other containers where water can accumulate. Empty or flush toys, birdbaths, tires, boat or car covers and pet dishes. Mowing your yard often and removing piled-up leaves or other debris also helps to combat mosquitoes.
Don’t Try This At Home
Contrary to popular belief the following are not good ways to keep mosquitoes at bay:
Forget about these ineffective pest control methods and stick with a proven approach of mosquito control. HomeTeam’s Mosquito Control Service includes:
The Bottom Line
Even if you don’t live in an area where cases of mosquito-borne illnesses have occurred, it’s still important to fight mosquito infestation. Nothing can ruin a backyard barbecue faster than swarming, biting bugs. Our mosquito service can help make your yard enjoyable and mosquito-free. Contact us today if you’d like more information about mosquito treatments, or help controlling other pest problems.