Get ready for an ankle biter invasion

CALIFORNIA – If you haven’t noticed it yet, you will soon. It’s the Aedes aegypti, otherwise known as the ankle-biting mosquito, and it will become clear over the next week whether record rainfall caused by Tropical Storm Hillary helped kick off an equally historic mosquito season across the Golden State.

Until Hillary’s tenure, California had a relatively mild mosquito and West Nile virus season thanks to an unusually cool spring and early summer. However, last week’s storms combined with humid heat up and down the state have swung conditions in favor of the little vampires.


Normally around this time of year, county vector control agencies would have treated most of the abandoned swimming pools to control the common household mosquito that spreads West Nile virus, and they would turn their attention to the ankle bites that later thrive in the area, said Suzanne Cloh, district general manager for control. Vectors in Greater Los Angeles County, Summer and Fall. But with the August rains, the ponds filled up again, creating breeding conditions for the domestic mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus.

“It took a long time for West Nile virus to emerge this year. It was a bit of a late start to the season,” Cloh explained. “Normally around this time of the season, all of our backyard resources are dry.

“That kind of takes us back,” she said. “Now we have to go back and treat the domestic mosquito, the main vector of West Nile virus.”

So far, this year, 55 cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in 18 California counties. Statewide, there have also been 2,797 mosquito samples that have tested positive for the disease, which is spread from birds and horses to humans via mosquito bites.

County-by-county virus activity map in West Nile (Photo courtesy of California).

As of Friday, two human cases have been confirmed in Los Angeles and Merced counties, eight in Inland Empire, and one in Santa Clara County. Orange, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Napa and Sonoma counties have confirmed West Nile virus despite no human cases reported this year, according to state health officials.

As vector control officials refocus on the threat posed by house mosquitoes and West Nile virus, they are urging residents to do their part to prevent the spread of mosquitoes in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hillary.

In addition to the renewed threat of a West Nile virus outbreak caused by heavy rains in August, it is the peak season for ankle biting. These invasive species can transmit encephalitis, dengue fever, and Zika. Hunters these days prefer to bite humans over animals.

“They’re very sneaky, these ankle-biting aedes. They lay eggs just above the waterline where they can sit for two years until the water rises and they hatch,” said Brian Brannon, public information officer for Orange County Mosquito Control. vector control area. “It’s the ankle biters that bother people the most – because they’ll bite you five or six times. They’re not a native species. They were carried on a ship and decided to stay here. They bite in the daytime while house mosquitoes will bite at dawn or dusk.” “

A week after Tropical Storm Hillary rained down from San Diego to San Francisco, ankle-biters are poised to develop into adult mosquitoes.

Life cycle of Aedes aegypti (Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

“It only takes a bottle cap full of water for mosquitoes to breed, so you have to be creative and look for anything that can keep the standing water out – tires, toys, plastic canvas with dimples – plants.” “Drains are often a hidden source,” Brannon said.

There is still time for residents to take the necessary measures to protect their homes, families and pets from vampires.

Tips to protect your home from mosquitoes:

  • Walk around your garden and look for breeding sites — anything that can hold a quarter inch of water. Get rid of any standing water and remove the source – plant saucers, tarps, buckets, litter box lids, etc. If you do not remove the source, check weekly for standing water seepage.
  • Empty bird baths weekly.
  • Store mosquito fish in ponds, use a larvicide or filter the water.
  • Gutters clean.
  • Rinse your pets’ water bowls weekly.
  • Empty the toilet brush holder.
  • Unused toilets cleaned weekly.
  • Use mosquito repellent on clothing and exposed skin.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothes and light, loose-fitting clothing while outside.

The ability of Aedes to spread diseases such as dengue and Zika, which is relatively new to California, is still unknown. So far, cases detected in California have been linked to travelers abroad, said Cloh of Los Angeles County.

“Our Ministry of Health has mostly reported imported dengue cases. We haven’t noticed any local transmission of any of these diseases, and we’re not sure why,” she said.

Cloh said vector control and health officials are taking these diseases very seriously with the new invasive mosquitoes.

“We are afraid of him,” she said. “We definitely think it may be in our future because there isn’t a lot of travel to outbreak areas.”

Last year, Maricopa County, Arizona, experienced local transmission of dengue fever, Cloh said, when the disease spread from an infected traveler to other household members. The outbreak has somewhat dispelled the theory that the Southwest is too hot and dry for mosquitoes to spread tropical diseases.

When an imported case is detected, vector control agencies across the state take strict measures to ensure that mosquitoes do not bite an infected person and spread the disease to others. We urge travelers to monitor themselves for signs of illness, wear mosquito repellent and stay indoors during symptoms.

Residents of most California counties can call their local vector control agency to come to their yard if they suspect a mosquito infection. Agencies can help identify the source, treat the problem, or educate the homeowner on prevention methods.

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