Mosquito control working to prevent Zika virus

Mosquito control working to prevent Zika virus

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Is Palm Beach County prepared for a second round of the Zika virus?

That was the focus of discussion on Thursday, as Governor Rick Scott hosted a roundtable in West Palm Beach.

But what kind of measures are in place to protect you and your family from the virus?

Zika is most troubling for pregnant women, whose babies can suffer from birth defects. That has the folks at Palm Beach County Mosquito Control determined to stop Zika-infested mosquitos before they bite.

"We're going to have the same risk this year, hopefully we won't have as many cases this year, won't have as many zones," said Scott during the discussion on Thursday.

Palm Beach County Mosquito Control has had two confirmed human cases this month, involving people who traveled from Central and South America. Crews checked the areas where those people lived for breeding grounds and found none -- but their work doesn't stop there.

Ever since a confirmed local case of the Zika virus in a Lake Worth neighborhood last year, neighbor Marie Johnson does what she can to fight the spread.

"I think living down here a lot of people get lazy. But I do think Zika is very serious," she said. "I don't think everybody around here is as knowledgeable about biology as they should be."

Johnson dumps any standing water in her yard and uses mosquito repellant when going outside in the evening. Her Neighbors also don't think twice about using repellant.

"It's the number one priority for our health," said Constanza Rojas. "I make sure to protect myself with mosquito repellant."

Governor Scott said he is pressing the feds for support ahead of a rainy and hot summer season.

"I've talked to the federal government about this, I've talked to the Trump administration, I've talked to Secretary Price at HHS, just to make sure they know that it's something they need to keep on their radar.. they need to be a good partner," he said.

Mosquito control regularly sets out traps to keep tabs on the virus. If they *do find a human case, they take action immediately.

"We go out there and we check out the property and make sure that there aren't any potential breeding sites," said Environmental analyst Chris Resinger.

If they do find a positive case for Zika, he said you don't have to look far to find the source.

"Chances are within a few minutes walk, we'll be able to find the place where they're actually breeding," said Reisinger.

Resinger is working on launching their most effective trapping regimen, which they used for the first time in 2016.

"The black and white contrast visually cues them in," he said, showing us a cylindrical container that attracts mosquitoes using dry ice.

"We identify them, and overnight them to the lab in Kissimmee for DNA testing," he said.

Mosquito control acquired funding to hire a full time trapper, who will help deploy these traps in even more areas throughout the county this year.

"From Jupiter to Boca Raton and out to Belle Glade, too," said Reisinger.

Crews also check neighborhoods for standing water in containers, trash and even tires, one of the biggest breeding spots.

"If our guys are out on a complaint and they'll find a discarded tire or two, in an alley or somewhere that's breeding mosquitoes, they'll bring it back here and toss it in our dumpster," said Reisinger.

Mosquito Control also has another method of handling mosquitos -- through fish. If they see problems in areas that have mosquitos breeding like ponds or drains., they will place the mosquitofish into the water to eat the larvae.

At the end of the day, mosquito control says they need your help.

"We can't be the puddle police for everyone the county," siad Reisinger.

Experts say the Zika virus is asymptomatic in most people, with only 20 percent experiencing symptoms. To protect yourself against mosquito bites, the EPA recommends using mosquito repellant with DEET, wearing light colored clothing, avoiding going out at dusk, and avoiding wearing perfume -- which attracts mosquitoes.

According to the EPA, using repellant containing DEET has been tested as safe for pregnant women.

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