As a trusted authority on mosquitoes, Gregory Williams, Superintendent of Mosquito and Vector Control for Hudson Regional Health Commission in Secaucus, NJ, was asked by Cooper Pest Solutions to weigh-in on the recent developments related to the Zika virus. Mr. Williams explained that Zika is a concern for NJ and PA residents for a few reasons:
“Zika is transmitted from person-to-person by infected mosquitoes, Williams said. “For local transmission of Zika virus to occur you need two things: the virus and the mosquito. The virus is present in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by way of infected travelers. People traveling to areas where Zika virus is endemic (such as Mexico, Central America, South America and the Pacific Islands) are getting infected with Zika and returning to the Northeast. We have populations of Asian tiger mosquitoes, Aedes albopictus, which can transmit the virus. With those two pieces in place, local transmission of Zika virus is possible in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
According to Williams, the chances of increasing the spread of Zika could happen at any time in New Jersey or Philadelphia from travelers bringing the virus home with them in addition to the increases in mosquito populations.
“Currently, there are imported human cases of Zika virus in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the populations of Asian tiger mosquitoes are peaking,” he said. “However, if we see an increase in the number of travel-related cases, such as people returning from the Olympics in Brazil, or an increase in the mosquito populations due to increased rainfall, the risk of Zika infection could increase. Also, an introduction of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to our area, which has happened before, could increase the risk of Zika infection.”
Although the Northeast hasn’t had a domestic transmission of Zika like Florida, Williams said there is still cause for concern in our area.
“The situation in Florida is slightly different than what we face in NJ and PA,” Williams said. “In addition to Asian tiger mosquitoes, Florida also has the yellow fever mosquito,Aedes aegypti, which is believed to be a more effective vector for Zika virus than the Asian tiger mosquito. The warmer weather in Florida also creates a longer mosquito season as compared to the Northeast. However, the recent cases in Miami represent the first mosquito-transmitted cases of Zika in the continental US, bringing this disease that much closer to home.”
Williams believes that if the Asian tiger mosquito can successfully transmit Zika, the Northeast will be at high risk since the mosquito is densely populated in our area.
“The Asian tiger mosquito is well established in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” said Williams. “It is also very difficult to control. If a local outbreak did occur, it would be difficult to stop. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone does their part to eliminate Asian tiger mosquitoes from their homes.”
What Can I Do to Protect Myself From Zika?
According to Williams, there are a few tips to help reduce the Asian tiger mosquito population on your property.
“The Asian tiger mosquito lays its eggs in containers, so anything that can hold water for a week or more is a potential habitat for Asian tiger mosquitoes,” Williams said. “Therefore, all standing water must be eliminated on your property. Also, Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer to rest in shaded areas with heavy vegetation so trimming back vegetation on your property will help reduce adult populations of Asian tiger mosquitoes.”
Following are Some Tips from Cooper Pest Solutions to Prevent the Spread of Zika in NJ and PA
- First off, protect your home!
- Eliminate all standing water on your property. Dump or remove containers on your property that collect water; plastic corrugated downspouts are also a favorite breeding ground for Asian tiger mosquitoes.
- Treat any standing water that cannot be dumped. Cooper Pest Solutions can help you with this step.
- Inspect your window and door screenings to ensure there are no cracks or holes. Address any necessary damage that needs fixing.
- When outside, prevent mosquito bites!
- Wear EPA designated mosquito repellent.
- Cover your skin with long sleeves and pants.
- Avoid areas where mosquito activity is known.
- Avoid travel to areas with endemic Zika transmission, especially pregnant women or women who plan on becoming pregnant.
- Protect yourself from Zika transmission through sexual relations or body fluids.
- Avoid unprotected sexual contact with anyone who has traveled to an area with local transmission of Zika.