Fighting Zika and other mosquito-transmitted illnesses

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Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

Mosquitoes are always a concern this time of year, as their population numbers and resulting bites rise with the temperatures.

But this year, mosquitoes seem like they're in the news more than ever with the threats of mosquito-transmitted illnesses such as Zika virus becoming more evident in new areas of the world. Prior to 2015, known Zika cases were limited parts of Africa and Asia, but more than 1 million cases have been reported in Brazil since 2015 and the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted the virus is spreading to many countries across South America.

As of mid-April, more than 350 travel-related cases were reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a result, it's not just more homeowners that may be opting for mosquito services – more and more commercial industries, including healthcare and long-term care facilities, may be opting for mosquito pest management, too.

The biggest reason why? Health concerns. In addition to Zika, mosquitoes are known carriers of several diseases like the West Nile and Chikungunya viruses. But even if mosquitoes aren't carrying a disease, their bites can affect people in several ways, ranging from mild irritations to intense inflammation and swelling. 

Top mosquito cities

Each year, Orkin releases its list of the Top 50 Mosquito Cities, and the Atlanta area topped that list for the third year in a row – based on the number of mosquito treatments Orkin performs in each market. While mosquitoes affect people in every state in the U.S., four cities in the Southeast are included in the top 10 – more than any other region.

Here's a quick look at the top 10:

  1. Atlanta                                                         

  2. Chicago                                                      

  3. Washington, D.C.                          

  4. Detroit                                                          

  5. New York                                    

  6. Dallas-Ft. Worth                    

  7. Nashville, Tenn.                                 

  8. Charlotte, N.C.                                       

  9. Raleigh-Durham, N.C.                                      

  10. Boston

Most common mosquitoes

Of more than 3,000 documented mosquito species worldwide, the United States is host to about 150. The appearance, habitat and habits of mosquitoes vary by species, but there are three that dominate the American landscape.

  • Aedes Mosquitoes: The most common types of Aedes mosquitoes are commonly referred to as Asian tiger or yellow fever mosquitoes. They can carry and spread Zika virus, Chikungunya virus and Dengue virus. They are most common in the southern United States. Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and also bite at dusk and dawn.

  • Culex Mosquitoes: These mosquitoes are in every state and can carry and spread West Nile virus. They are most common at dusk and dawn.

  • Anopheles Mosquitoes: In addition to spreading malaria, which has been considered eradicated from the United States, these mosquitoes can transmit dog heartworm and other viruses. Like the Culex, they have been found in every state and are most active at dusk and dawn. 

Protect yourself and your facility

There is currently no vaccine for Zika virus, Chikungunya virus or West Nile virus. The only protection is preventing mosquito bites, so anyone who spends time outdoors during the spring and summer months needs to take precaution. Here's what you can do at your facility:

  • Inspect and eliminate standing water from your landscape, as well as roofs, gutters, parking lots and anywhere else water can build up. This includes changing water weekly in bird baths, saucers under potted plants, small ponds and any containers that hold standing water. Mosquitoes usually breed in standing water, and they only need a few inches.

  • Close up entry points, including lobbies or shipping and receiving areas. Make sure your facility has positive airflow and install air curtains to help blow these pests right out the door. Close up utility penetrations and exterior gaps around windows and walls with weather stripping, mesh and caulk.

  • Reduce the risk of mosquito bites by encouraging employees and residents to wear long sleeves and pants when outside. You can also use EPA-registered mosquito repellents.

If you notice an abundance of mosquitoes around your facility, alert your pest management provider immediately. The quicker an infestation is caught, the sooner it can be remedied – and the faster your staff and residents can get back to enjoying those warm summer days.

Entomologist Ron Harrison, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin. He is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management with more than 30 years of experience. He can be reached at  


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