Monday, the city of Lubbock’s Vector Control began laying out the first mosquito traps of the 2016 season in 56 sites around the city of Lubbock and Lubbock County. In addition to the plans they typically implement to test and protect against West Nile virus, the city will begin testing for the Zika virus this year as the virus has sparked international concern.
“We’re ahead of the game,” said Robert Lopez Jr., Vector Control Coordinator for the city of Lubbock, as he prepared traps for the day. He explained that after monitoring Lubbock’s ever-changing weather, the Vector Control staff decided Monday would be the ideal day to start laying traps in order to be prepared for this mosquito season.
The primary mosquito species that are vectors of West Nile are different than the primary species that are vectors for Zika, which changes some of the strategies Vector Control Uses to trap mosquitoes.
This year, in addition to the types of traps Lubbock usually uses, the city will be adding new traps which will be placed closer to the ground to draw in the aedes albopictus mosquitoes, one species that can carry Zika.
Lopez explained that, for the most part, Lubbock’s vector control strategy will stay the same, but one of the most significant changes is that they will be installing more traps to track mosquitoes which could possibly carry Zika.
The city hasn’t started fogging yet, but as soon as traps come back with mosquitoes in them, the city will begin fogging. Lopez explained this as “blanketing every part of our region”
“The strategy for Zika is in development, it’s not in development at the city level, it’s constantly evolving at the national level with the CDC,” said Jaime Coy, director of cemeteries and Vector Control for the City of Lubbock.
“We’re working with a lot of entities that are coming in and giving us the information to include the CDC,” Lopez added. “And day by day, it changes and every day that something new comes out, and we have to adjust our plan”
While Lopez reiterates that there is no reason for Lubbock residents to panic about Zika, mosquitoes carrying the virus do have some qualities that make them difficult to prevent.
Lopez warns the public that Zika carrying mosquitoes can breed in as little as two ounces of water.
“There’s a lot of things that we can’t get into, like [residential] backyards or areas that [homeowners] keep tires and bird feeders; we’re not allowed to get on the property” Lopez explained. For that reason, Lopez said it’s up to Lubbock residents to empty their pools, bird feeders, or backyard items of any standing water.
With the Zika virus, much remains unknown to local vector control operations, so Lopez said he’s hoping the public will do their part in keeping their yards mosquito free.
Outside of dumping standing water, Lopez said, that many of the conventional tactics for keeping mosquitoes at bay are important to remember as well.
“[Wear] long sleeves– I know it gets hot here- wear Off or always spray yourself with some kind of mosquito repellent, that’s a big thing, and the other thing is keep the weeds down low and make sure you’re emptying areas that could contain water, and it could be a bottle cap that’s sitting on the ground just collecting water,” Lopez said.
Now that Zika is in the picture, Coy added that Vector Control will be, “fighting a way on two fronts.” That’s because in controlling Zika and West Nile, Vector Control has to monitor two different species of mosquitoes which bite at different times.
Coy explained that while West Nile-transmitting mosquitoes typically bite at dawn and dusk, Zika transmitting mosquitoes are “day biters.” That means the City of Lubbock will need to treat for mosquitoes over a wide range of hours.
He added that as the season turns into spring, many Lubbock homeowners have let their sprinklers run, filling their backyards with drainage and providing ideal conditions for these container-breeding mosquitoes to grow.
Coy recommends eliminating excess sprinkler use and draining standing water in your backyard often.
According to the latest report on the CDC website, while there are 273 recorded cases of Zika in the U.S. contracted through travel, there are still no cases of people contracting Zika directly from mosquitoes in the U.S.
The City of Lubbock’s Vector Control encourages people who travel to countries where Zika is present to stay alert for symptoms of the virus which include fever, rashes, joint pain, and red eyes.