WASHINGTON— Zika, a virus carried by mosquitoes, has found its way into the United States and pest control exterminators are limited in their ability to stop the menace. The Centers for Disease Control has already placed a travel alert in Miami.
CDC Director Tom Frieden told reporters that early attempts at mosquito control in Miami are not working as hoped, possibly due to pesticide resistance or difficult-to-reach breeding sites. According to PBS, health officials applied two types of insecticides intended to kill young mosquitoes to standing water in the Miami neighborhood that had Zika cases, but the bug’s larvae continued to develop.
Mosquitoes spread the virus by biting a person with the virus and then passing it along to other individuals it bites. Additionally, Zika can be spread through sex from both men and women.
Zika is known to cause microcephaly in babies born to infected pregnant women, which can stunt the growth of a baby’s head causing fatal brain damage which in turn can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth.
The species of mosquito that carries the Zika virus is the same species that carries dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya virus.
“The biggest issue with mosquito control is that you have to try to eliminate breeding sites–breeding sites such as old tires that contain water. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Flipped over kitty pools that contain water and leaves–pool covers,” New Jersey pest exterminator Jamie Haberman of A Ablaze Pest Control Company told The Daily Caller.
“Unfortunately right now we are limited to pyrethroid class of pesticides. It’s only a single class of pesticides plus natural products, which can be effective, so we are very limited with the materials we can use in today’s environment,” Haberman said.
Pyrethroids are pesticides that are low in toxicity to mammals and birds but high in toxicity if applied directly to water. Low doses are needed to kill insects and the pesticides are fast acting. Pyrethroids replaced older pesticides in the 1990’s when environmental and health regulations demanded such changes.
Nevertheless resistance to pyrethroids, research at the CDC shows, has become more widespread. As a result, the pesticides aren’t as effective. Haberman also mentions that exterminators also face “drift” as an obstacle when treating a site.
“The problem with some of the pesticides is something called drift. Where if you treat it on one property there are certain regulations where you have to be careful that it won’t drift over to the other property,” Haberman said.
He explained, “There are strict notification laws nowadays in some states where you have to notify neighbors and the neighbors are a block away. Of course, that raises the alarm of people who don’t want any pesticides anywhere near their property. And they have a right to that, of course. That can limit your treatment but the target is in site. So that’s a big issue.”
Additionally, in order to apply pesticides for mosquitoes, one must have the right licensing to do so. Haberman stresses that treatments are applied to turf, bushes, trees, outskirts of properties and most of the property of itself.
“It’s limited in its effectiveness because you can’t treat an entire neighborhood. I know in some areas last year–– two years ago –– helicopters were coming into neighborhoods and spraying entire areas–– large, large areas–especially areas with lakes and stagnant ponds, because of mosquitoes in general and West Nile virus,” said Haberman. “It’s still a big one. It’s still a very big issue–West Nile virus.”