The CDC and other health agencies have been doing their best to keep track of the seasonal spread of the West Nile Virus for several years now even in our part of the country. The Mid Atlantic and Northeastern US don’t have nearly the risk of impact from illnesses spread from mosquitoes that Southern states do, but there is certainly a risk. Our area is at the northernmost edge of many spread maps that scientists are monitoring now as spring turns into summer across the country.
In the past several years we have seen small numbers of West Nile infected individuals each year in the Mid Atlantic. Frankly, every time a dead crow is found infected with West Nile, it makes the local news, as well it should. The Zika Virus is creating a scare these days as the current worry is that travelers will bring it back from the tropics and spread the disease through sexual contact and mosquito bites. No one is quite sure yet how hearty the virus is and no known cure or vaccination has been identified as of yet. Gauging the strength of a virus is critical but can be tricky. For instance, malaria can live in the digestive system of a mosquito, whereas HIV dies within seconds of being exposed to open air.
What does this all mean to you? At this point, there is certainly no reason to panic. That said, there are steps you can take around your home to protect against mosquito bites. It is in your best interest to marginalize breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Remember, shallow standing water is a favored breeding environment for mosquitoes. Accordingly, upside down trash can lids and trash cans without drilled holes in the base can serve as desirable love nests for these nasty parasites. Summertime is the time of the year for exposed skin, so be smart about your home’s surroundings as experts are learn more about how Zika and West Nile will impact our area moving forward.