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Protect against disease-carrying mosquitoes

Special to the Courier

Each summer, the Courier has published public health warnings about the importance of destroying mosquito habitats.
This year, news reports have noted that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that can carry Zika, Chikungunya and other viruses, has spread to 30 states. Despite this, the majority of Americans have yet to put in place basic recommendations that help reduce the mosquito population at their own homes.
That’s the result of a new survey fielded by TNS Global, detailing homeowners’ knowledge of steps to reduce mosquitoes in their yards. According to The Mosquito Squad Fight the Bite Report, 74 percent of Americans do not plan to modify their time outside this year due to mosquito activity, yet less than half – 49 percent – follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to use mosquito repellent. Additionally, just 36 percent regularly remove standing water, a simple task also recommended by the CDC, to reduce mosquito breeding.
“Unlike Chikungunya and West Nile virus, Zika has been identified as a world health crisis and we must work together on personal, local and global levels to fight mosquitoes,” said Scott Zide, president and COO of Outdoor Living Brands. He also co-founded Mosquito Squad, a nationwide home and commercial mosquito control firm.
“Removal of standing water is the most essential tactic in mosquito elimination yet homeowners aren’t actively removing it, which is surprising given that mosquito concerns are so high.”
According to Zide, just as surprising was the finding that 46 percent of those surveyed did not plan to do anything different in their yards – despite recent news of the Zika virus.
Findings from the survey indicated:
• Only 36 percent of Americans turn over toys or items in their yards that contain water
• Less than half throw out lawn debris, under which mosquitoes can breed
• Just a quarter of Americans shake out tarps, including barbecue and fire pit covers, to remove accumulated water
• Less than 27 percent make sure their gutters are clean
• More than a quarter – 27 percent – walk their yard regularly to remove items that can harbor mosquitoes
“Although Zika has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States, public health experts do expect that it soon will, and we’re encouraging homeowners to walk their yards to check for ways to eliminate mosquitoes,” Zide said.
Mosquito Squad professional tips include:
• Tipping over anything that holds or collects water. A bottle cap filled with water holds enough water for mosquitoes to breed. Since mosquitoes breed in standing water, the elimination of standing water decreases a mosquito’s breeding ground. Yards with birdbaths, play sets with tire swings, tree houses, portable fireplaces and pits and catch basins are the biggest offenders.
• Tossing any yard trash, including clippings, leaves and twigs. Even the smallest items can provide a haven for mosquitoes to breed and increase the population.
• Turning over items that hold water and trash. Look for children’s portable sandboxes, slides or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts; in plant saucers, empty pots, light fixtures and dog water bowls. Eliminate these items or keep them turned over until used.
• Removing tarps that can catch water. Many homeowners have tarps or covers on items residing in their outdoor spaces. If not stretched taut, they are holding water. Check tarps over firewood piles, portable fireplaces, recycling cans, boats, sports equipment and grills. Use bungee cords to secure tarps in the yard.
• Taking care of your home. Proper maintenance can be a deciding factor in property values and mosquito bites. Regularly clean out gutters and make sure downspouts are attached properly. Regrade areas where water stands more than a few hours and check irrigation systems regularly to ensure that they aren’t leaking and creating a breeding haven. Keep lawn height low and areas weed-free.
• Using a professional mosquito elimination barrier treatment around home and yard. A home barrier treatment reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on both humans and pets.