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Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 8, 2016
Contact: County Executive's Office, (845) 638-5122
                 Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, DO, MPH, DABFM, FAAFP (845) 364-2512

GET MOSQUITOES TO BUZZ OFF!


NEW CITY, NY - - Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert caution residents that preventing mosquito breeding and mosquito bites takes on added importance this summer, as the Zika virus has emerged as a worldwide threat to public health. Zika is a virus spread mostly by mosquitoes. For most people it is a mild infection with few or no symptoms, however it has been linked to health problems in some people, and it is a serious concern for pregnant women and their partners because it can cause serious birth defects.

Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance pest; they can spread disease, such as West Nile Virus or Zika Virus. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water, and their offspring "grow up" in water before emerging as adults that fly and bite. Many types of mosquitoes, including those that can spread disease, can lay their eggs in even the smallest amounts of standing water around the home such as in flowerpots, birdbaths, bottle caps, and discarded tires. Others lay their eggs in small ponds or other bodies of water. Most mosquitoes are active between dusk and dawn and will bite when the air is calm. Other mosquitoes, especially the types that breed in containers, will bite at any time of the day.

In other parts of the world, including Central and South America, the Zika virus has been mainly spread by a mosquito bite from the species Aedes aegypti, which is not present in New York State. However, a related species of mosquito, Aedes albopictus (also known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito) is present in Rockland, as well as in New York City, Nassau, Putnam, Orange, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Mosquitoes become active when the weather is warm, and there may be a risk of locally acquired cases in parts of New York where Aedes albopictus is present, such as in Rockland County. To date, the only cases in the U.S. are in people who got the virus while traveling to Zika-affected areas, or through sexual transmission from someone who had traveled there.

Since the West Nile virus outbreak in 1999, the Health Department has been collecting, identifying and tracking mosquitoes, both in their adult and larval stages, and providing education and free mosquito control products to the public in an effort to reduce the mosquito population. In addition, program staff conduct routine and complaint-based inspections at many commercial properties that are considered "high risk" for mosquito breeding, including tire-storage facilities, landscaper yards, municipal storage yards, outdoor swimming pool facilities, horse farms, marinas, and garden centers, as well as respond to complaints against private residential properties.

This year, for the first time, the New York State Department of Health has asked Rockland and other counties to set out additional traps for the Aedes albopictus mosquito so that these mosquitoes can be tested to see if they are infected. "We have begun using the additional traps that monitor for the Aedes albopictus, however we have not seen much activity yet this season," said Dr. Ruppert.

"As in the past, the Health Department mosquito control teams will treat mosquito breeding sites such as swamps and storm drains to kill the mosquitoes breeding there, however we need residents to work with us to help fight the Aedes albopictus (Asian Tiger) mosquito since they prefer to breed in any containers that can hold water on your property, even in less than one ounce of water (about two tablespoons), such as the cap to a bottle of drinking water. Its favorite places to lay eggs are backyard containers, such as birdbaths, flowerpots and bases, toys, litter, and pets' water dishes. According to Rutgers University, one child's toy left outdoors could produce nearly 1,200,000 mosquitoes in a single summer," said Dr. Ruppert.

Follow these tips to help prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property:

  • Check your property for ANY items that can hold water. Even small items, such as drinking cups or soda cans, can produce mosquitoes. Get rid of the items or empty the water out and scrub the inside of the item at least once a week.
  • Drill drain holes in the bottoms of recycling containers, turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use, and remove all discarded tires.
  • If you have a swimming pool that is not in use, drain the water off the cover or treat this standing water with Mosquito Dunks®. The dunks are for homeowner swimming pool use ONLY and are available free of charge at the Health Department, Building D, 50 Sanatorium Road in Pomona, Monday - Friday, from 9 am to 4 pm, while supplies last. It is important to know the size of your pool when coming to pick up your dunks. In addition, residents can request free larvicide tablets by calling the New York State Department of Health at 1-888-364-4723.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
  • If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Make sure that roof gutters drain properly.
  • Clear vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds and remove leaf debris from yards and gardens.

Most mosquitoes are not infected with disease- causing viruses. However, to reduce your risk of being bitten, take the following steps:

  • Cover your skin as completely as possible. Wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods or when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Use mosquito repellent, which should always be applied according to label directions. Do not use repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
  • Cover baby carriers with mosquito netting when outside.
  • Stay indoors when mosquitoes are more active.
  • Close doors and make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that the screens do not have rips, tears or holes.

To learn more, visit http://rocklandgov.com/departments/health/environmental-health/mosquito-control/ or call the Health Department at 364-3173. To learn more about the Zika virus visit the New York State Department of Health website at http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/zika_virus/ or call the Zika Information line at 1-888-364-4723.