Controlling buzzing mosquitoes in your yard in the humid summers months is already a pesky task and now many parts of the United States are at risk for mosquitoes that can potentially transmit the Zika virus, doubling up the public's concern. Some of the best and simplest ways to prevent Zika mosquito bites are to spray insect repellent and wear long-sleeved clothing to keep yourself covered up. Zika has caused quite the scare in recent months and you might be wondering if there’s more you should be doing besides those recommended steps to further prevent the virus from reaching your backyard — for example, it wouldn't be surprising if you were already asking yourself whether you should spray for mosquitoes this summer too.
Here are the facts: Southern gulf regions of the country have a higher risk of local transmission of Zika this summer, whereas those in the northern regions won’t need to worry too much. But Zika has been in the news for quite some time now — Central and South America have been hit the hardest so far — and you might have heard that the virus poses the biggest danger for pregnant women.
That much is definitely true; Zika has been linked to serious birth defects in fetuses that include microcephaly, which can result in newborns with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brain. Experts say the virus is likely going to make its way into the United States next, so pregnant women in the southern coastal regions may need to take extra precaution this summer. Spraying your backyard might be one way you decide to do that.
“Zika will go where dengue has been, to some extent,” pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Karin Nielsen said in a recent interview with NPR. “I think pregnant women should stay away from areas that have dengue outbreaks in the continental [United States].” According to the CDC, that includes the Florida Keys, Houston, and the border of Texas and Mexico. These regions have high densities of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which have been linked to transmitting the Zika virus.
If you’re not sure if your community has mosquitoes that carry Zika, you can check with your local mosquito-control district and see if they’ve detected any near your home. Even if they haven’t detected the mosquito yet, it’s best to play it safe and take the step to clean up your yard by eliminating any standing water. Even something as small as a water bottle cap can act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
According to a report by ABC, insect expert Dr. Ron Harrison recommends people survey their yards once a week to make sure there’s no standing water and to trim overgrown plants or bushes. If you are in a high-risk region, he also recommends getting your yard professionally treated for mosquitoes and to work with your neighbors to mosquito-proof your community. According to Harrison, mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have a flying radius of 100 yards, so it's essential to work with your neighbors.
Health officials are continuously monitoring where the Zika virus is spreading while local municipalities are undertaking efforts to control mosquitoes in their respective communities. But, the virus has spread rapidly in the past so by cleaning and spraying your own backyard are a couple ways to contribute to a Zika-free and fun-filled summer.