UF/IFAS Extension gives tips to try to avoid Zika virus

NEWS RELEASE

Feb. 19, 2016

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Roxanne Connelly, 772-778-7200, crr@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- With public concern about Zika, UF/IFAS Extension is giving tips on how to avoid contracting the virus.

Although the Zika virus is circulating in Central and South America and the Caribbean, currently, there is no evidence that local populations of Florida mosquitoes are infected. However, we need to be prepared and vigilant in case local transmission occurs, said Jorge Rey, professor and interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), in Vero Beach Florida.

Roxanne Connelly, an Extension medical entomology specialist with FMEL, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says:     

  • People need to do all they can to manage the mosquitoes most likely to be involved in Zika virus transmission in Florida if the virus shows up in local mosquitoes.  These mosquitoes are among those known as “container mosquitoes” specifically, the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.   
  • Initial measures include getting rid of containers in your yard or outside your business, because they collect water and become perfect habitats for immature stages of these mosquito species. These include tires, wheel barrows, potted plants that sit on saucers, cans, bottles and more. You should inspect your yard weekly to make sure you don’t have any containers. Bromeliad plants and bird baths also can house container mosquitoes, Connelly said.  For these types of mosquito habitats, they can be flushed with clean water weekly, or can be treated with mosquito-specific Bti granules (Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits).
  • Inspect windows and doors for hole and tears and repair them to exclude mosquitoes.
  • Mosquito repellents should be used when people plan to be outdoors at the time mosquitoes are biting. The longest lasting repellents contain DEET and picaridin. Whatever type of repellant you use, read the label to make sure you’re putting on a product registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Connelly hosted a webinar last week for county Extension faculty across Florida to learn all the latest information about Zika. Now, they are in a better position to answer your questions about the virus and how it’s spread.

Public concerns about Zika triggered UF/IFAS scientists to write a new Extension document to explain the virus and mosquito transmission. The paper can be found at http://bit.ly/1QTLDqO. FMEL scientists also have crafted a new question-and-answer document for their website, http://bit.ly/1O0eLbi.

Rey co-authored the new paper for the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) in which UF/IFAS faculty members outline the origins of the Zika virus, how it is transmitted and what we can do to prevent it. Six other FMEL faculty members helped write the Zika paper.

Additionally, scientists at the FMEL are applying for research funding to work on the Zika virus, Rey said.

FMEL scientists do not yet know how effectively local Florida populations of mosquitoes will be able to transmit the Zika virus to humans. But they’ve spent many years studying the mosquito species and how they deliver other viruses, namely chikungunya and dengue, Rey said.

There are no vaccines yet to protect you against Zika. Vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are not likely to be available for several years, according to the Extension paper. That’s why protection against mosquito bites is so vital, Connelly said.

Meanwhile, state mosquito control agencies and the Florida Department of Health monitor local areas for diseases and for these mosquito species. Additionally, the FMEL regularly conducts research on testing and monitoring techniques to try to improve the relevant technologies, Rey said.

 

Mosquito Control Truck

Aedes aegypti is a species of mosquito that can spread Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue and West Nile virus. (James Gathany / CDC)