Are you growing mosquitoes in your backyard? After the nearly endless rains we’ve had recently, you might be. Standing water is the ideal mosquito breeding site; they mature in 10 to 14 days and can breed in less than a single ounce of water!
The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Pick-A-Day to Fight-the-Bite initiative encourages people to inspect their property once a week for standing water and empty or change it wherever they find it.
Each household item in the following list could be a breeding site when left outside. “Fight the bite” by checking off each item as you go through your yard to empty or change the water you find.
- Artificial fish ponds
- Bird baths
- Boat and cover
- Drain pipes
- Flower pots/trays
- Items behind your shed
- Items under your deck
- Pet food/water bowls
- Rain barrels and cisterns
- Rain gutters
- Recycling bins
- Swimming pools
- Tires/tire swings
- Trash cans
- Utility carts
- Watering cans
- Any other man-made items that hold water
While Zika is a common summer news story due to the considerable risk it poses for pregnant women, no U.S. cases of the virus have occurred locally. All of the 25 cases in Virginia–including only two in southwest Virginia–have been travel-related or spread through sexual activity.
"Zika is not local to the area and still has to be acquired by traveling to a Zika-endemic area, such as the Caribbean or Central and South America," said Thomas Kerkering, M.D., chief of the Infectious Disease Department at Carilion Clinic. "In this area, it is West Nile and then some very uncommon central nervous system infections."
These include La Crosse encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis.
Therefore, experts emphasize prevention of all mosquito-borne disease rather than Zika in particular.
VDH recommends four steps:
- Regularly empty all outside water containers (see the infographic for a list)
- Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET
- Wear long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes while outside
- Repair gaps in windows, doors and screens
Dr. Kerkering also recommends using products that contain at least 35 percent DEET.
"I recommend DEET because it has been proven to work," he said. "It is the only repellent that also works against ticks, and tick-borne diseases are more prevalent in southwest Virginia than mosquito-borne diseases."
He also recommends spraying a permethrin-containing insect repellent on your clothes.
"With DEET on the skin and permethrin on the clothes, that is pretty good protection," he said.
Find out more about mosquitoes from VDH's mosquito FAQ page.