On Eve of Mosquito Season, State Issues Zika Virus Caution

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The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which now calls Arizona home. Image: USDA

The Arizona Department of Health Services urged people today to take precautions against the Zika virus, particularly while traveling. The virus is active in more than 60 countries, including the United States. There have been 57 travel-associated cases of Zika in Arizona, according to the agency. None have been acquired in the state where, however, West Nile Virus is common.

Both viruses are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.

In the Phoenix metro area, May through October are typically the worst months for mosquitoes, when rain pairs with warmer temperatures. Mosquito activity peaks during the monsoon.

Mosquito larvae need just a bottle-cap-full of water to thrive, experts say. They can hatch in as little as three days.

The health agency is working to prevent the spread of disease in Arizona “and we need the community’s help,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “This new campaign will help build awareness about the steps people can take to prevent the spread of Zika, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants when you’re outdoors, and removing standing water from around your home.”

Some 80 percent of those infected have mild or no symptoms, the agency said, but Zika can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, if the virus is acquired by a pregnant woman.

Beyond Zika: West Nile Virus

While Zika is a concern, West Nile is the most common mosquito-borne virus in Arizona [as reported by In&Out Magazine last summer]. There were 63 known cases of West Nile in Maricopa County in 2016, up from 26 the year prior. In Arizona, there were 78 cases total in 2016, and five deaths.

Mosquitoes pick up West Nile from birds, and can in turn infect other birds, horses and people. Only some species of mosquito carry West Nile, including those that are common in Arizona.

Most people infected with West Nile virus experience no symptoms. About one in five will develop a fever and other symptoms, including headache, body aches, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting or rash. Fewer than 1 percent develop a serious condition.

Zika is transmitted by a mosquito species called Aedes aegypti. Not native to Arizona, the mosquito is here now, and it is known to be aggressive during daytime (unlike many native species that tend not to be active during the day).

“A mosquito that bites a Zika-infected person can then get Zika. If that mosquito bites another person, it can spread Zika to that person,” says Jessica Rigler, chief of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Mosquito species that carry West Nile are common in Arizona.

What You Can Do


The following information was reproduced from the state’s Zika prevention site:

Tips for avoiding mosquito bites
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Stay in places with window and door screens or air conditioning to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Use insect repellents and always follow the product instructions.
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on skin covered by clothing.
  • Be sure to apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Use Permethrin to treat clothing and gear. Permethrin is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an insecticide for use against mosquitoes, as well many other insects. Clothing treated with Permethrin will remain protective after multiple washes.
If you have a baby or young child
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old.
  • Dress your children in clothing that covers their arms and legs.
  • Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Do not put insect repellent on children’s hands, eyes, mouths, cuts, or irritated skin.
  • Adults: Spray repellent onto your hands and then apply to children’s faces.

You can reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. See some examples of common mosquito breeding sites.

What you can do outside of your home
  • Install or repair and use window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
  • For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
  • Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
  • If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Hire a pest control expert to treat your yard and outdoor areas with long-lasting insecticide or larvicide to control mosquitoes up to several weeks.
What you can do inside your home
  • Use air conditioning when possible.
  • Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like vases and flowerpot saucers.
  • Kill mosquitoes inside your home. Use an indoor flying insect fogger* or indoor insect spray* to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. These products work immediately, but may need to be reapplied. Always follow label directions. Only using insecticide will not keep your home free of mosquitoes.
    • Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid places like under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
    • Use an indoor fogger* or indoor insect spray* to reach and treat areas were mosquitos rest inside the home.
  • Do-it-yourself products*:
Product Active ingredient Brand name examples** How long it works
Indoor flying insect spray Imidacloprid, β-Cyfluthrin Home Pest Insect Killer, Raid, Ortho, HotShot, EcoLogic 7-10 days
Indoor flying insect fogger Tetramethrin, Cypermethrin Hot Shot, Raid, Real Kill, Spectracide Up to 6 weeks

**Insecticide brand names are provided for your information only. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cannot recommend or endorse any name brand products.

Staff Writers
North Phoenix News staff writers and editors often work together to produce articles like this one.

Staff Writers

North Phoenix News staff writers and editors often work together to produce articles like this one.

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