Mosquito control units in Florida already have a tough time lowering populations and limiting the spread of disease.
It's the people who are making that job more difficult.
"In Pinellas County we've had six imported cases of what we call travel-related cases of the Zika virus in our area. The neat thing about that is Pinellas County has been able to respond and keep it from getting into the local mosquito population," said Rob Krueger, the entomology and education support specialist of Pinellas County Mosquito Control.
"These people are bringing in the Zika virus from a travel situation. The people are actually the ones bringing the virus back home," said Krueger, who is part of the team trying to prevent the disease from entering the local habitat.
The challenge gets more difficult in the summer months, when rain, high temperatures, and humidity become the seasonal norm.
Pinellas County Mosquito Control technicians are aggressively treating known breeding areas by ground and by air, as well as responding to calls from citizens.
Pinellas County marks National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday with a central message to residents: Breaking the mosquito cycle starts at home.
“It’s important for residents to remember the three D’s of mosquito prevention,” said Krueger. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent and drain standing water.”
Mosquito Control is encouraging citizens to do their part to reduce the mosquito population with some simple steps:
· Empty water any item that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets.
· Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
· Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
· Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
· Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
· Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
· Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
· Cover rain barrels with screening.
· Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas, around septic tanks and heat pumps.
· Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.
Technicians note that many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water – ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes – contributing to the problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.
Right now, only about one in four American adults -- 27 percent in a new ABC News poll -- report taking steps to try to limit their exposure to the Zika virus. However, among people who live in states that border the Gulf Coast, including Florida, that number is 34 percent. The number of Gulf Coast states residents concerned about someone they know getting the Zika virus is currently at 42 percent, according to that same poll.
The level of concern about being infected with Zika is somewhat lower than it was for other epidemics tested in previous ABC/Post polls. Worries about Ebola, the H1N1 swine flu, bird flu and the SARS virus peaked at 43, 52, 41 and 38 percent, respectively.
Concern might increase if more Americans become infected, as occurred with swine flu. At the same time, those experiences –- in which feared epidemics did not occur -– may contribute both to diminished worry and to confidence in the government’s response.
Among those taking action nationally, using bug spray is the top volunteered response to what they’re doing, mentioned by half. Just fewer than a quarter say they’re staying indoors or draining standing water, and slightly more than one in 10 are trying to avoid areas with mosquitoes or are making sure that clothing covers their skin.
Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease. Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventative measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases.
In 2015, Mosquito Control received over 2,100 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses – with an average response time of 24 hours or less. If residents need to request Mosquito Control service, call 727-464-7503.
For more information about Pinellas County Mosquito Control, visit www.pinellascounty.org/mosquito.