Here’s how Mecklenburg County is preparing for the Zika virus

Here’s how Mecklenburg County is preparing for the Zika virus
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You’ve probably heard of the Zika virus by now. It’s had a limited effect on N.C. so far.

It’s the mosquito-borne illness that can cause serious birth defects if a pregnant woman is infected. The disease is primarily located in South American countries like Brazil, but has also made its way to places like Puerto Rico.

There have been 10 cases in North Carolina so far, but all of them have been people who traveled to those areas. There are no known cases of people getting bit by mosquitos here and getting Zika, the Mecklenburg County Health Department said.

The county health department is stepping up its mosquito control program just in case.

Usually the county hires 10 staffers for each summer to patrol frequent mosquito hot spots and respond to citizen complaints. They’ll eliminate standing water sources and spray larvicide. Workers will hit 1,400 sites around the county, each of them three or four times.

This year, they’re hiring 14 people and doing a much broader neighborhood survey, said Tim Dutcher, Mecklenburg County’s environmental health supervisor.

The county has picked neighborhoods spaced throughout the county and will go through 50-60 houses in each to survey the mosquito conditions and take samples of larvae to identify them (with homeowner permission).

“It’s going to be a much larger project than has been done in the past,” Dutcher said.

The good news? The Zika mosquito is uncommon here.

It’s commonly carried by the Aedes aegypti, which Dutcher said isn’t really found in Charlotte.

Photo by jentavery via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo by jentavery via Flickr (Creative Commons)

People are on high alert.

Dutcher said mosquito complaint volume is way up this year compared with years past, Dutcher said. They had 60+ complaints in April, which is a lot for early in the season.

The next few weeks are prime mosquito breeding time.

What’s the difference between what the county does and what a private mosquito company would do?

Mecklenburg County mostly kills baby mosquitos in water, Dutcher said. Private companies spray things that kill adult mosquitos too.

Cover photo via Mecklenburg County.

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