As spring temperatures rise and quarantined New Jerseyans hunger for long walks and fresh air, one question could be biting away at residents: Can mosquitoes carry and transmit the novel coronavirus?

That is "extremely unlikely," according to Joe Conlon, technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association. Unlike West Nile virus, the new virus that causes COVID-19 is not transmitted through the bloodstream, in a manner such as a mosquito bite. In general, Conlon said, other coronaviruses have not been shown to survive well inside mosquitoes.

That does not mean people should let their guards down when venturing outside, even if they are keeping a safe distance from other humans.

"Mosquitoes are the most deadly form of life on the planet, and if they're not transmitting coronaviruses, which they're not, they transmit a lot of other stuff that you can find in New Jersey," Conlon said.

To that end, he reminds New Jerseyans that West Nile virus in particular remains a dangerous, neuroinvasive sickness that can cause permanent brain damage, or even be fatal.

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Plus, Conlon said, the people of the Garden State have enough to worry about right now.

"The stress of numerous mosquito bites just adds to the panoply of effects that could possibly contribute to a more severe case of coronavirus," he said.

Conlon's advice through the spring and summer months is to observe what he calls the "three Ds" as much as possible: Drain your property of all standing water, as mosquitoes require that to breed; dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and cover your arms and legs if you can; and defend against bites with an EPA-registered repellent.

He said AMCA will be vigilant in continuing to remind people that the risk of coronavirus infection from mosquitoes is virtually nonexistent, and mosquito control crews will continue to spray pesticides throughout communities as normal. However, in response to those who have asked if local departments will spray disinfectants instead, Conlon said that is not likely to happen, as it would require the procurement of all-new equipment.

The goal is not to eliminate all mosquitoes, but to reduce their population to a point where they are no longer bothersome.

"If you have underlying health conditions, that will exacerbate the effects of coronavirus, and West Nile virus and all of these other things are part of that universe," Conlon said. "We are out there trying to eliminate those underlying conditions, so mosquito control actually does play an important part in keeping the mortality rates and severity of coronavirus under control."

The American Mosquito Control Association is the national descendant of the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association, which was the first organization of its kind in the world. The president of that group, Robert Duryea, is also the North Atlantic Director of the AMCA. For more information, go to njmca.org.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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