As an expert in handling and managing mosquito problems in Georgia, not a single day goes by when we aren’t asked about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. There are a lot of variables and unknowns, but let’s start with some basics, then work into what you can do to limit the threat to your family in your own backyard.

First of all, Zika has been known to science since 1947, and was long considered a jungle disease – there have been notable outbreaks in the 1950’s and 1980’s in Africa, but the disease was little-known anywhere else in the world. Obviously, that is changing, and we now see two distinct strains of the virus – the original African strain and an Asian version which is now well-documented in the Americas.

The classic sickness associated with the Zika virus is flu-like, and lasts for 7-10 days, but is rarely fatal. Again, all well-documented over the last 70 years.

The real issue, and the one that has forced us to take a closer look at Zika, and caused us all worry, is that now it appears that fetuses are negatively impacted in their development if the mother is infected while pregnant. The most notable issue? A condition called microcephaly that leads to retarded brain development and other cognition issues in the child. This has never been noted in other outbreaks, such as those in Africa and most recently, in Polynesia, but we are seeing it in Brazil. Scariest of all is that there does not seem to be a specific time in pregnancy when Zika is “worst” – the entire nine months seems to be critical.

Of huge concern is that all this information is coming at us while many of our own mosquitoes are in a dormant phase – it is simply too cold. As the spring weather arrives and leads to summer, we all look forward to enjoying our backyard again, and the effect that Zika will have in Georgia is still an unknown – except that it is already here – the first case was confirmed on February 3 by the Atlanta CDC. That brings us to at least 12 states that have seen it, and the threat in the southern U.S. is very real – you and I both know we have plenty of mosquitoes, even in the winter.

Of course, you need not look too far to hear the conspiracy theorists blame everything from industrial pollution to insecticides, but the fact remains: the virus can be passed by mosquitoes as well as through intimate contact. All the evidence we have suggests that mosquitoes help to spread the virus, and it appears that women who contract the virus while pregnant have a much higher chance of giving birth to a child with microcephaly. There are, as of this writing, over thirty countries with travel limitations in place regarding the Zika virus.

So what do you really need to worry about?

Simply put, if you don’t have mosquitoes, you don’t have a Zika virus (yes, there is still that passing contact between consensual adults, but the vast majority of the cases are directly linked to mosquitoes). There are dozens of species of mosquito that live in Georgia, but the rules for handling them are all the same – the larvae need standing water to grow, so make sure that you don’t have buckets, old tires, and other items that routinely collect this – like the kiddie pool in the backyard.

At this time, the only carriers of the virus have been the Aedes family of mosquitoes, but, of course, we have them here. They are one of the most common types of mosquito encountered in Georgia. Our solution? Zero Mosquito and one of our many custom treatment options to take back your yard. Due to the high risk of birth defects being linked to the virus, we feel that the most important step is to keep the threat out of your yard completely until such time as we are all able to learn more about the virus and its impact on the unborn.