Mosquito control efforts in NJ not changing over Zika fears
The mosquito-borne Zika virus is a major concern among health officials and residents in New Jersey, but it's not changing the state's approach to curbing the mosquito population this year.
"As of right now, we expect no difference in control methods," Steve Csorgo, assistant biologist with the state's Office of Mosquito Control Coordination, told New Jersey 101.5. "This mosquito is not a mosquito that's normally found in New Jersey."
The latest maps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put New Jersey in the estimated range of the Aedes aegpyti mosquito, the main vector for virus transmission, but it is rarely found here and struggles to establish a population in the Garden State due to its need for tropical climate.
And while Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, has a presence in the state, its transmission of Zika has only been seen in laboratory studies.
According to Csorgo, certain species of mosquitoes have already begun "coming out as larvae" in New Jersey, but the majority emerge in mid-to-late April and early May.
All 21 counties have a mosquito control agency, and treatment is already underway in some areas.
"All of the county agencies have created a database of maps and locations of places they know breed mosquitoes, and they automatically go to those places and check them," Csorgo said. "They're also open to the public calling in and telling about any places that they don't know about."
Treatment is never conducted automatically, Csorgo noted. Inspectors must confirm mosquito activity before larvicide - granular or liquid - is administered.
"You're not broadcasting anywhere but where there's water and you see mosquitoes in that water," he said.
For larger areas that need treatment, such as salt marshes, counties spray using aircraft, or the state is called in to do the work.
Csorgo said homeowners can save themselves some mosquito trouble this summer by eliminating any standing water on the property. Even a rain-filled bottle cap can be a nuisance. Gutters produce the biggest problems, Csorgo added.
The continental United States, as of the latest CDC update, has still not seen a locally-acquired (human-mosquito-human) case of Zika virus. The hundreds of cases so far have been travel-related.
The disease can also be spread through sexual contact and possibly through blood transfusion. Zika is mainly a concern for pregnant women, given its confirmed linked to a serious birth defect of the brain known as microcephaly.