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Almost 3,500 different mosquitoes populate the planet, and 170 of them live in Florida, including Aedes Aegypti, which terrorized the state long before Zika. We tend to think of mosquitoes as nuisances. In fact, they're the deadliest animal on earth. Mosquitoes have killed more humans than all wars in history. In addition to Zika, mosquitoes spread malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya, encephalitis and West Nile virus, killing more than 1 million people each year. Aedes aegypti, originated in sub-Saharan Africa, arriving in the Americas in the 16th or 17th century. They say that mosquitoes reproduced in water barrels inside ships transporting slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean. The first documented yellow fever outbreak occurred in Barbados in 1647. When plantation owners in the Carolinas imported slaves from Barbados, Aedes aegypti came with them, and its been feeding on Americans ever since. But it is only the female who targets humans--she uses the human protein found in blood to build yolk protein for her eggs-- and she targets only humans unlike other mosquitoes who spread other diseases by biting birds and then biting humans. Aedes aegypti wants only human flesh. She's a fierce biter. She buzzes low and attacks ankles to avoid the slap of hands. After landing, she punctures your skin with her human tongue, then releases saliva that keeps your blood flowing until she's sucked her fill. And unlike many other mosquito species, which only bite when the sun is rising or setting, Aedes aegypti lurks in your yard in full daylight, waits for you to come out and attacks. She has been attacking Floridians (often fatally) for centuries. Back then, killing mosquitoes wasn't just a public health concern. It was an economic necessity when Florida was just in its growth years. The bugs often still come in swarms. I am not a bug expert by any means and you should know that this article comes from reading a very stimulating article about the Sarasota County Mosquito Management and how they collect, kill, and study mosquitoes.
After identifying species, staffers at Sarasota Mosquito Management match the results to a map showing where the traps were set, telling the department what kinds of mosquitoes are popping up where. This information dictates how to respond. If it's a localized problem, workers will strap on backpacks and do minimal sprays, dump larvae-hungry fish into ditches or abandoned pools or send out trucks for sprays. Sometimes a private contractor, will drop mists of insecticide from planes over 64-acre plots. In addition to Aedes aegypti, another species, Aedes albopictus can also transmit Zika. Florida has a modest number of both types.
What you need to know to defend yourself. Aedes aegypti is a "container breeder," meaning it only reproduces in small vessels of water. They don't breed in ditches, lakes, ponds, open water, swamps, none of that. They pop up inside bromeliads or in the base of flower pots, or even in receptacles as small as a bottle cap or a tarp. That's one reason why the species sticks so close to humans. If we could eliminate containers, we could eliminate the threat. If we all walked around our yards once a week and dumped out every bit of standing water we found, the mosquitoes would have nowhere to reproduce. The species typically doesn't travel farther than 200 meters from where it is born, so if you can eliminate it in your neighborhood, you don't need to worry about it. Also in this rainy season you need to be aware of bundling up when going out to doctor appointments or vising a library....So, cover yourself, this particular mosquito loves ankles so make sure you wear socks with your sneakers, wear long pants and shirts that will cover your arms. Always spray your skin with mosquito repellent before going out during the day. Please understand that Zika has now been transmitted in almost every country in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, as well as more distant nations including Papua New Guinea and Cape Verde. More than 460,000 suspected cases of Zika had been identified as of mid-August, with 174,000 of them in Brazil alone. More than 2,200 cases have been reported in the United States -- 419 of them in Florida. Most of the cases involved persons traveling overseas, but at least 14 people have been infected by local mosquitoes in several locations in South Florida.
Aedes aegypti breeds rapidly in places with large concentrations of people whose homes don't have screened-in windows, don't use their air-conditioning, and who leave barrels or cisterns around to store water. Please remember that your air conditioner and your television set may be your best protection if you are an elder. So do not turn off your air conditioner. It just may save you from being bitten from a hungry mosquitoe mom.
Some claim it will be super-easy to bring the mosquito population down to zero in any local area where Zika is found but as Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, eradicating the mosquitoes in the Miami area where Zika was found has already proven more difficult than they expected. Nobody needs to panic but the disease and its unknown effects already frighten many of our elderly living alone. There is no vaccine or treatment.
I hope this has brought you up to date in terms of what you need to know to remain safe during our hot summer season in Florida. This article appeared in the September 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine By Cooper Levey-Baker AND Everett Dennison.
Posted 30th of August, 2016 by Olga Brunner
Tags: Zika, Mosquitoes, Miami and Palm Beach Florida
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I Have worn many hats in my day: Nursing Home Assistant Admin and Activities Director, Assisted Living Admin, Case Management for the State-wide Medicaid Program, and Trainer for Dept of Elder Affairs.