Even before state health officials confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Florida, the American Mosquito Control Association was busy dispersing information on controlling the threat. In the face of the recent cases, the group has redoubled its efforts.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women and their partners not to travel to a community just north of Miami where Zika is actively circulating. This is the first time the CDC has warned people not to travel to a U.S. neighborhood.
In addition to the travel warning, the Aedes aegypti mosquito has infected more than a dozen people in Miami with Zika.
Even before Florida health officials confirmed cases of Zika in the state, behind the scenes the American Mosquito Control Association has been working alongside its members—the individuals and agencies in the front lines of the mosquito-control effort—to inform the public on how they can both protect themselves and help stop the spread of Zika, a virus which is passed along through a bite from an infected mosquito.
AMCA not only recommends that people wear long pants and long sleeves to protect against the mosquito but also that they wear EPA-approved repellents, stay inside as much as possible, and avoid areas with Zika outbreaks.
But the news of the past week has pushed AMCA and its message even more into the spotlight. Joseph M. Conlon, AMCA’s technical advisor, was interviewed by 14 different media outlets last Wednesday alone—and the last one concluded in the early morning hours of Thursday with the BBC.
Along with media interviews, AMCA is working on distributing information—in the form of brochures and door hangers—to support its members in containing the spread of ZIka.
Conlon said that individuals also need to do their part in the mosquito-control efforts by draining standing water and eliminating larval habitats in their own backyards and spaces. Mosquitoes like the Aedes aegypti breed in standing water.
“If we need anything, it’s a national initiative to make mosquito breeding socially unacceptable,” Conlon said. “Something along the lines of ‘Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires’ or ‘Buckle Up for Life.’”
While efforts are being made to educate the public, Conlon said that’s not enough. People have to step up and take the threat seriously.
Even though Conlon concedes there is some hype around Zika, he said it is a serious problem and that he was dismayed to read accounts of people in Miami remaining complacent about it.
“These people are putting themselves at risk, and they’re putting others at risk,” Conlon said. “It’s really up to the people to take heed. Without the public’s help, we’re not doomed to failure, but it will be a lot more difficult, and a lot more people will get sick.”