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Arkansas Cities Prepare For Mosquito Season, Zika Virus Concerns

LITTLE ROCK — The mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus are found in Arkansas, a fact that health officials and city governments are keeping in mind as cases of the virus continue to be reported in parts of the U.S.

LITTLE ROCK — The mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus are found in Arkansas, a fact that health officials and city governments are keeping in mind as cases of the virus continue to be reported in parts of the U.S.

The virus, currently spreading fast across Central and South America, can be carried by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. So far, no cases have been reported of people contracting the virus from a mosquito bite in the U.S., but some have been diagnosed after returning from trips to countries where outbreaks are occurring, including one Arkansan whom the state Health Department has not identified.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed one case of the disease being contracted inside the U.S. by a person in Texas who had sex with a person who recently returned from Venezuela.

Health officials say the highest potential for the disease to spread in this country is through mosquitoes biting people who have become infected while traveling.

“The infectious stage lasts about a week to 10 days, so it’s possible if someone returned and they were infectious, then a mosquito could bite them and then bite another person and pass it on,” said state Health Department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel.

Symptoms of the virus are usually mild or nonexistent, but the virus has been tentatively linked to birth defects.

“That link hasn’t been totally proven right now — I believe the CDC is studying it — but the main thing is that if you’re pregnant, you want to consider not traveling to these areas where there are Zika epidemics,” Mirivel said.

Anyone who travels to an area of Zika epidemic should avoid mosquitoes for a week to 10 days after returning, she said.

In Arkansas, mosquito season typically begins in April or May and continues until the weather turns cold, usually around October. There is no statewide program for controlling the mosquito population, but local governments typically run their own mosquito-control programs or contract with other entities for them, or both.

“It’s certainly on my mind,” Newport Mayor David Stewart said when asked about the Zika virus. “If it becomes a bigger problem than it is, we may be a little more aggressive with our spraying. We made need to start earlier, at the first sign of any mosquitoes, instead of waiting until our count gets up pretty good. We will be watching it very closely.”

Stewart said the city has a $200,000 annual budget for mosquito control, funded by a $4 fee on residents’ water bills. During mosquito season, crews are out spraying with seven trucks, six nights a week, as well as setting mosquito traps and putting larva-killing substances in standing water. An airplane is used for spraying a few times each summer, if the mosquito count is high.

Stewart said mosquito control is especially important for Newport because of the large number of rice farms with standing water in Jackson County.

“Out in the county during the peak time of the year, you can’t hardly breath, or you just can’t stay outside. But here in town, it’s not that way,” he said.

The city of Little Rock uses city crews for mosquito control and has a contract with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Biology Department, which sets traps for the insects. Solid Waste Services Manager Warren Atkins said the mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus also can carry the West Nile virus, so the city already targets them.

“If we’re already spraying those particular mosquitoes, I don’t know that we’re going to have any other change in our program,” he said.

Todd Matthews, who, as Fort Smith street supervisor, oversees the city’s mosquito-control program, said he has not heard of the city directors discussing the Zika virus yet but said that “I’m sure they’ll be talking about it.”

The Health Department says ways to avoid mosquito bites include using an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus; wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers; using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside; and emptying standing water from containers even as small as a bottle cap.

The mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus are unusual in that they usually bite during the day, Mirivel said.

 

Story: http://www.swtimes.com/news/state-news/arkansas-cities-prepare-mosquito-season-zika-virus-concerns

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