SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX/AP) - As health officials in Alabama and Louisiana investigate cases of the Zika virus, efforts to stop mosquito infestation are underway on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Crews charged with reducing the mosquito population in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson Counties are working their spring protocols to identify and eliminate mosquito larvae.
Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes and is a threat to pregnant women, because the infection could put a developing baby at risk.
Raymond Cuevas, with Harrison County Mosquito Control, said while his crew is monitoring the Zika scare, no extra control measures are needed right now.
"We're treating ditches now and picking up old tires. It's source reduction, targeting areas where mosquitoes lay eggs," Cuevas said.
Cuevas said discarded tires easily collect water and, like ditches and other areas of standing water, become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
When the biting bugs hatch depends on the weather, Cuevas said. Warmer weather means earlier mosquito hatching. Regular neighborhood spraying usually begins by mid-April.
Mosquito Control Services, of Metairie, LA, is the company contracted to battle mosquitoes in Jackson and Hancock Counties. Steve Pavlovich said the Zika virus was a hot topic at this week's annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association in Savannah, GA.
"We don't know to what extent this disease could affect the area, but we are taking all necessary precautions," Pavlovich said.
He said if Zika is identified in our area, inspections and eradication efforts will be increased, as will public education on ways people can eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around homes and businesses.
Experts say even the small amount of water in a bottle cap is enough for mosquitoes to breed. Mosquito Control Services has put out additional traps looking for eggs and tracking mosquito populations.
The company offers these tips to control mosquitoes:
- Drain, flush and discard anything that might collect water, such as potted plants, barbeque grills, gutters, boats and toys, such as tire swings and Frisbees.
- Keep your lawn mowed to reduce adult mosquito resting sites.
- Fill in any low spots in your yard that might collect water.
- Flush bird baths at least once a week.
- Replace water in pet bowls often.
- Remove vegetation and debris from drainage ditches.
- Keep pools clean and in operating condition.
- Clean ponds and stock with minnows.
- Repair torn window screens.
- Turn boats upside down.
- Use insect repellent, and cover up at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
The government is shipping Zika virus tests for pregnant women to health departments, as travelers try to tell if they returned with an infection that could put a developing baby at risk.
Zika is suspected of causing abnormally small heads in developing babies. Federal health officials are advising pregnant women not to travel to areas affected by Zika, which is spreading rapidly through Latin America. Those who already have can seek testing to help determine their risk, although the tests aren't perfect.
Health officials don't expect widespread transmission of the mosquito-borne virus in the continental U.S., but they said Thursday that Puerto Rico is especially vulnerable as it sought emergency funding from Congress to battle an outbreak.