Zika Virus in New Jersey: Protect Your Family This Summer

Concerns about Zika VirusPrime season for mosquitoes in New Jersey started in May and could last until the first frosts of October. With the summer months upon us, be mindful of the pesky mosquitoes that can potentially harm your family and ruin your outdoor barbecues. Mosquitoes are the most dangerous creatures on the planet. They have the ability to spread Malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus and many other illnesses and deadly diseases.

Mosquitoes are very common pests in northern New Jersey – about 63 species of mosquitoes exist in the state and they all require as part of their life cycle standing water in which to develop.

“During the past few years, cold winters and extensive snow on the ground tended to knock back the (mosquito) population” because it was too frigid for some larvae to emerge from eggs and develop into adult mosquitoes, said Matthew Bickerton, a biologist who works for the Middlesex County Mosquito Extermination Commission. “With the warmer winter this year, we are expecting an accelerated season” for some varieties of mosquitoes, he said. “Some of the eggs are weeks ahead of production.”

Bergen County Takes Proactive Steps Against Mosquitoes to Reduce Zika Virus Concerns

“Bergen Bites Back” is the name of the new campaign strategy by Bergen County officials to take a proactive step against the Zika virus.

According to the Wyckoff Patch, on Friday May 20th the Division of Mosquito Control and the Department of Health released a school of Gambusia fish in a Wyckoff pond, which feed on mosquito larvae. Gambusia affinis, commonly known as the mosquitofish, thrives in a wide variety of water types and gives birth to an average of 40-100 live fry. These fish help control the mosquito population and prevent such mosquito-borne illnesses as West Nile virus and the new menace alarming the country – the Zika virus.

The fish, combined with regular spraying of standing water – as well as a redoubled effort to educate the public on how to reduce spots for mosquitoes to breed in light of the Zika menace – are all part of the campaign “Bergen Bites Back.”

What is Zika Virus?

The virus was first discovered in 1947 in Africa. Named after the Zika forest in Uganda, Zika is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti. This is the same mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. People infected with Zika will not know they have contracted the virus because many have no symptoms to mild symptoms. Only about 1 in 5 people with the virus will exhibit symptoms. Most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms are muscle pain and headache. Symptoms can last for several days to a week.

According to the CDC, contracting the Zika virus while pregnant can be very risky. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetuses to have a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Other problems include defects of the eye, hearing deficits, impaired growth, and Guillain–Barre syndrome which is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system.

Zika Virus Concerns in NJ

As of July 1st, the CDC confirmed 935 travel-associated cases of the Zika virus reported in the United States. As of June 29, 2016, New Jersey already had 39 confirmed cases of Zika – all travel related so far, and most commonly found in Passaic County with 7 cases and 8 being the highest in Bergen County. On May 31, a baby with the Zika virus was born at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County, NJ after the mother contracted the virus in her native country of Honduras. Almost 300 pregnant women in the country have tested positive for the virus, which can cause severe birth defects.

Currently no vaccines or treatments exist to prevent Zika virus disease. Mosquito bites is the primary way Zika virus is transmitted. Protect yourself when traveling to countries where viruses have been reported. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.

UPDATE: The number of Zika cases reported among New Jersey residents has been climbing steadily, reaching 47 on Friday, July 1st, according to the state Department of Health. Of the cases, 10 were reported in Bergen County and 9 in Passaic County. 

As of June 23, seven babies have been born in the United States with microcephaly, or a small head, as the result of Zika infection.

UPDATE August 25: New Jersey is now among the states with the highest number of Zika virus cases, coming in sixth overall – just behind Pennsylvania – as new fears about the disease have arisen. According to Patch.com, Department of Health is reporting 100 confirmed cases of Zika in New Jersey. 

Preventing Mosquito Breeding in NJ

The majority of these annoying blood-sucking insects need two major things to thrive: warm weather and wet places to breed. When temperature exceeds 55 degrees, mosquitoes start breeding and a female can lay more than 100 eggs at a time.

We can play an important role in reducing mosquito populations by eliminating common breeding sites. As homeowners we can be mindful of useless containers such as buckets, cans, and tires and dispose of them. Maintain and clear debris from roof gutters and drainage ditches. Furthermore, Hire a professional lawn care company to schedule on a timely basis.

Experts say it only takes a thin layer of water to provide a thriving breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquito larvae could transform into an adult mosquito that’s flying around in as little as a week.

There are things you can do to reduce mosquitoes in addition to eliminating standing water:

  • Make sure your window and door screens are in good shape so mosquitoes cannot enter your home.
  • Wear light-colored long sleeves and pants when you are outdoors.
  • Apply an EPA-registered mosquito repellent.

Practice the three D’s: Drain the water, Dress to cover skin, and Defend by using repellents.

Outdoor Spraying for MosquitoesOutdoor Spraying for Mosquitoes

The best way to control mosquitoes on your property is with the help of a mosquito control expert; they will know how and where to target mosquitoes on your property. Pest control services in Bergen County are experiencing an increase in the surge of calls for mosquito control. Integrated Pest Management is the most environmentally responsible strategy.  IPM manages outdoor pests in the landscape, including mosquitoes, by attentive monitoring with the use of environmentally sustainable products. It includes a targeted, staggered application every 3-4 weeks. As a result, affecting the breeding stages of each type of insect, as well as their seasonal arrival. The most popular IPM programs include:

  • Exterior Pest Control
  • Organic Mosquito, tick, flea, and gnat control
  • Organic deer repellent
  • EPA-approved geese control

For mosquito management, treatments are applied to all areas (wooded perimeters, under shrubs, wood piles, leafy ares, tall grass, wet places, and other areas) where these pests are likely to breed.

Taking Action Against Mosquitoes

New Jersey homeowners are increasingly taking proactive measures to protect their families from mosquitoes this season. The CDC estimates due to travelers returning to the United States from heavily infected areas, the number of Zika cases will increase.  Hire a New Jersey pest control company to help eliminate mosquitoes from your property, and be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Is the company licensed by your State’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)?
  • Have the technicians who will be applying your product received the proper training as required by your state?
  • Does the company have adequate insurance liability coverage?
  • Are the products environmentally safe?

Keep current with the CDC’s emerging information and take steps to eliminate the mosquito threat from our property. Let’s work together to keep our families safe from insect-borne illnesses this summer.