Texans prepare to fight mosquitoes before Memorial Day

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and many of you will be outside enjoying this Austin weather. But health officials expect a local outbreak of Zika somewhere in Texas, carried by local mosquitoes.

They might be closer than you think, the insects can only travel a few hundred feet in their lifetime.

This time of year you could see squirmy creatures in only a teaspoon of water near your house.

Mosquito control companies around town say this will be the busiest time of year. Before memorial Day, Zika concerns loom large in Texas. Joshua Lien from Mosquito Joe has noticed.

“Zika virus has had a pretty huge impact. We were getting calls from pregnant women before mosquitoes were even out,” said Lien.

His crews can spray a yard for $75 to $100 and it lasts for 21 days.They also use chemicals to kill larva in standing pools of water. They do north of 100 yards a day and expect the workload to explode after Zika is transferred locally.

“Yeah at that point I anticipate our phones will start ringing again,” said Lien.

“This is the first summer Zika has been on people’s mind.” said Dr. Phil Huang from Austin/Travis County Health. He says spraying can help, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all defense.

“Any spraying only has that effect if the droplets land on the mosquitoes themselves. It only kill the adults,” said Dr. Huang, referring to the city’s mosquito spray.

The important things are for you to dress in long clothes that cover your skin, drain standing water and wear bug spray.

Experts say many mosquito species prefer to breed around the house.

According to the World Health Organization, the aedes mosquito is one of those mosquitoes. They carry the Zika virus. It usually flies about 440 yards before it dies. Its life span can range from 10 days to a month depending on the environmental conditions.

The culex mosquito is also a big problem in Texas. It carries West Nile Virus. Studies show it has a big travel range from just 50 feet to as far as one mile away.

NBC Nightly News profiled insect repellents on their “consumer reports” series.

One of the top consumer report picks for the most effective bug sprays is a plant-oil-based repellent, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. It kept zika-carrying mosquito away for seven hours. That’s where good news for so-called “natural bug sprays” ends. Consumer reports looked at 16 insect repellents, testing them on their ability to ward off mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, which cause birth defects in pregnant women are infected.

Synthetic chemicals like picaridin and deet were effective int he right concentrations.

Some countries will use a nuclear option to stop the mosquitoes that spread Zika. The International Atomic Energy Agency is helping countries in Latin America and the Caribbean use radiation to sterilize mosquitoes.

The plan is to release millions of sterile male mosquitoes into the wild. After several months, they’ll outnumber the fertile ones. Scientists say that’s supposed to cut the number of new mosquitoes.

Marc Vreysen from IAEA Insect Pest Control Laboratory says “What’s going to happen is that the sterile males are going to seek out the virgin females, they are going to mate, but there’s going to be no offspring. So, there’s going to be reduced population replacement and you will see that after a while the target population is going to go down.”

Using radiation to stop insects may sound extreme, but it has worked before. Countries have used the technique since the 1950s to tackle pests like moths and fruit flies.

A plan to dedicate more than a billion dollars to Zika research and prevention is stalled in Congress. President Obama asked for nearly $2 billion in emergency funding back in February, but Republican House members say the Zika plan is not worth adding to the deficit. Their a bill provides just over $620 million to fight the virus. The president says that’s not enough, and threatened to veto the House plan. It could take weeks to work out a compromise.

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