Zika virus adds new urgency to mosquito control efforts

Fresno, Calif. (KFSN) -- The threat of the West Nile virus and the Zika virus have local mosquito abatement agencies starting their annual hunt for mosquito filled swimming pools.

The districts have filed for warrants to search properties where abandoned or dirty pools have become breeding grounds for mosquito's. The fact is the West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito illness in the state. About 737 cases were reported last year, seven of those in Fresno County. West Nile claimed 45 lives statewide. But the Zika virus and its potential for birth defects are the big scare, and the public is being urged to be on the lookout for any mosquitos. Backyard pools are one big place to start.

It's estimated there are at least a few hundred abandoned or untreated swimming pools in the backyards of homes in the Fresno-Clovis area. The Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District is obtaining warrants to enter the suspect properties and deal with the mosquito problem. Director Tim Phillips says it is an annual issue. "We have always had a few places that were hard to gain entry to, and we do have the occasional individual who doesn't want us there."

The familiar mosquito that spreads West Nile virus has been the main target, chemicals can be used but the most effective method is to put tiny mosquito fish in pools or ponds eat the mosquito larvae. But the latest threat is the so-called Yellow Fever mosquito, which can also transmit the Zika Virus. It just showed up in Fresno County three years ago. It's tiny, with black and white spots. Phillips says they can breed just about anywhere. "They are cryptic they like little spots you wouldn't even think of. We see them a lot in flowerpots. Discovering them in an indoor humidifier was a little scary to us."

Mosquito District Biologist Cheno DeFreece says they are nasty critters. "This particular mosquito is a daytime biter, however, it is opportunistic, it will bite you at night if you are there it will bite you. It will follow you into your home or car it particularly likes to bite on the ankle."

While it can spread the Zika virus, only six cases have been reported in California, from people who were infected in South America. But, Phillips says the threat is that if a person infected someplace else is bitten by one of the Zika carrying mosquitos, and it bites someone else, the problem spreads. "Now that they are here they have the virus in their system, and we have the mosquito is now here and if the two were to meet we could have a problem."

The Zika virus is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.
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