Zika threat a boon for local mosquito-control companies

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Local mosquito control companies say they've been deluged with calls about Zika

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Zika virus cases in Ohio

30: Cases acquired outside Ohio during travel

0: Cases acquired in Ohio by mosquito

1: Cases acquired by sexual transmission

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health


6: Locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika cases reported

1,818: Travel-associated cases reported

1: Laboratory acquired cases reported

1,825: Total

  • 16: Sexually transmitted
  • 5: Guillain-Barré syndrome

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As Zika continues to spread, mosquito control companies have been inundated with calls from local consumers concerned about transmission of the mosquito-borne virus in the Miami Valley.

Aaron Hilliard, operations manager at Mosquito Squad of South Dayton, said the franchise’s phones have been ringing round the clock since the first domestically transmitted cases of Zika were reported in Florida earlier this month.

“We’ve had quite an influx of calls in the past couple of weeks,” Hilliard said. “Most of our calls are coming from those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, just to make sure they’re protected.”

While pregnant women are most at risk from Zika, which can cause a rare birth defect in fetuses called microcephaly, no cases of Zika transferred by mosquitoes in the United States have been found in Ohio.

Still, the mosquito responsible for massive Zika outbreaks in Latin America and the U.S. territories, the Aedes aegypti, and the Aedes albopictus mosquito, which also carries the virus, are both present in the state.

“Fortunately, we don’t have a heavy population of Aedes aegypti in Ohio, it’s mostly the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and some other breeds,” Hilliard said. “What we’re doing with our customers is we’re coming out and treating their yards to make sure we’re killing any mosquitoes that are there, and our product also has a residual effect so that when the mosquitoes go to feed, it will kill them as well.”

The company charges $399 for four spray treatments, including one free treatment, using a proprietary of blend of insecticides to rid their yards of the potentially dangerous mosquitoes.

But Zika mosquitoes are notoriously resilient and harder to eradicate than most mosquitoes native to the United States.

Repeated aerial applications of insecticide in Florida, including a one-square mile area in Miami where 16 people are believed to have acquired the virus from mosquitoes, has reduced mosquito populations but failed to halt the spread of Zika in the state.

There have been 31 Zika cases confirmed in Ohio, including one in Champaign County reported last week.

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All of the the Ohio cases originated outside the United States, including one that was sexually transmitted. But that hasn’t prevented a “good-sized uptick in calls about Zika” to A-1 Able Pest Doctors in Dayton, according to Robert McGee, the company’s entomologist.

McGee said he tells callers that while aerial treatments may not be foolproof, the only way to prevent a Zika outbreak is to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease, and spraying is by far the most effective method.

“You’re not going to kill all the mosquitoes, but you can control them,” he said. “We go in and spray all the areas where mosquitoes might harbor. All of our customers also receive a mosquito control manual explaining to them how to identify high-population areas where mosquitoes could breed; bird baths and kiddie pools that need to be dumped. The idea is to eliminate any standing water.”

Because of the heavy volume of calls associated with Zika, A-1 is now “able to treat whole neighborhoods, and do it fairly economically,” McGee said, noting the average cost to treat and average-sized yard is about $75, while the cost to treat eight to 10 adjoining homes could be as low as $35 per yard.

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