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South Florida Prepares for the Zika Virus: What Residents Need to Know

Zika Virus

According to the Sun Sentinel, there are now 20 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Florida as of Friday, February 12th. In South Florida alone, there are three reported cases within Broward County, and seven in Miami Dade County. To date there have been no reported cases in Palm Beach County, but local health officials are ramping up efforts to reduce mosquito populations, as well as remove areas that provide favorable conditions for mosquitoes to breed across all three counties.

All of the reported cases in both Broward and Dade County were from people infected while traveling to other countries. Even though several cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the U.S. in Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York, a major outbreak is not expected here according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control). In Florida, the state Department of Health has established a hotline for residents and visitors where they can call to ask any questions they may have about the virus 855-622-6735.

The news is full of information on the startling birth defects the Zika virus has caused along with travel alerts, dangers, and warnings to avoid it. At Hulett, we know that our customers have questions about the Zika Virus and the risks associated, and want to provide our customers with some general information on the virus and a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Understanding the Zika Virus

Let’s start by understanding what the Zika virus is. The simplest explanation is that it’s a pathogen whose side effects can range from uncomfortable to deadly when contracted by humans. With symptoms similar to the flu, the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.

Only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika show signs or symptoms. For those who do show signs or symptoms, they are usually mild and the individual may not even realize they are infected making screening and treatment difficult. Some minor symptoms might include red rash with small bumps, low-grade fever, headache, and red, itchy eyes and joint pain. More serious side effects of exposure to the virus include abnormally small head size in newborns whose mother was exposed to the virus, Guillain-Barre disease, paralysis and other birth defects including club feet.

The Aedes (ay-dees) mosquitoes, have also been known to spread other diseases, such as dengue (den-gee) fever and chikungunya (chik-un-gun-ya) fever. These mosquitoes are aggressive, feeding during the day and at night. If you think you have the Zika virus consult your healthcare provider.

Steps Florida Health Officials Are Taking

Governor Rick Scott last week declared a public health emergency in Hillsborough, Miami Dade, Santa Rosa and Lee Counties, later expanding this to include Broward County after new cases were reported there. South Florida, unlike other places in the U.S., is of concern to most health officials considering the high volume of international travelers returning from places in Latin America where the outbreak has been more severe. Hospitals throughout South Florida are actively cataloging the recent travel history of all patients who have common Zika virus symptoms if they have recently visited any of the 29 countries on the current CDC’s travel alert list.

Counties throughout Florida have stepped up their control efforts, but even the most effective mosquito control agency will have limited impact on controlling mosquito populations statewide. Agencies are increasing control efforts in and around neighborhoods by spraying and removing conditions on properties that are conducive for breeding. Mosquito control techniques today focus primarily on killing adult mosquitoes and destroying the immatures by direct application of pesticides to places with standing water where they reside.

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Family and Home

There is no one best method or guarantee of protecting yourself from this virus, even within in your home since they could enter during a door or window being opened. One method of protection against this virus is to implement a mosquito reduction program and remove conditions that make it easy for mosquitoes to breed. State and county programs for control help reduce the overall populations. These programs however, without homeowner participation, will have a limited impact on reducing the overall population given they cannot treat every clogged rain gutter, bird bath or flower pot found in Florida effectively. To do this, state agencies need homeowners to do their part to remove areas on their property that can be ripe breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

  • Empty standing water from any containers like; birdfeeders, ceramic pots, buckets, plastic wading pools, or wheelbarrows found in your yard.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers, or garbage cans that are left outdoors.
  • Keep your gutters clean and unclogged. Roof gutters that become overly clogged with leaves can trap rain water in making it a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Take care of your swimming pool. Make sure you clean and chlorinate your pool regularly even when it is not being used. If you are utilizing a pool cover make sure no standing water is left pooling on top as mosquitoes can breed in the water pooled on covers.
  • If you have a boat make sure you cover it and remove any accumulated rainwater on a weekly basis.
  • If you have low lying areas around your home that flood easily with moderate rainfall, consider getting these areas filled to prevent any pooling of water on the property and in ditches and other low lying areas.

Even having a screened porch and/or AC is no guarantee that mosquitoes won’t be a problem in and around your home. Also, regardless of even having a mosquito reduction program in place or not, there will still be some mosquitoes leaving the risk for infection. Mosquito reduction programs are meant to reduce the number of mosquitoes that are breeding on the property, but are not meant to completely eliminate them. Hulett has been serving South Florida for over 45 years, helping homeowner’s reduce the number of mosquitoes breeding on their property.

Just Call HULETT if you have any questions about how we can help reduce the number of mosquitoes found in and around your home. To learn more about our mosquito control program go to https://www.bugs.com/pest-control/mosquito-control.asp or give us a call at 1-866-611-BUGS (2847).

Stop Spiraling Whiteflies Before They Ruin Your Landscape

The spiraling whitefly gets its name from the distinctive spiral pattern on the underside of leaves in a thumb print-looking “spiral” pattern of eggs. A white, waxy substance begins to build on the underside of leaves which coats the eggs and newly hatched whiteflies (nymphs). The spiraling whitefly nymphs secrete a clear substance called “honeydew”, the sticky honeydew can drip down from infested trees overhead and quickly accumulate on cars, pool decks, driveways, and patio furniture and grills below leaving a nasty mess for homeowners.

Whiteflies are becoming a common pest found on many ornamental plants in South Florida. With over 75 species identified in the state, these tiny white moths are capable of infesting a wide range of landscape plants. In fact, whiteflies have rapidly broadened their diet to include a taste for more than 50 species of plants in Florida. The type and level of damage you might see depends upon the species. They frequently attack plants such as avocado, banana, bird of paradise, black olive trees, chinaberry, citrus, fig, gardenia, gumbo limbo, ligustrum, mango, coconut palms, persimmon, and many other types of palms, trees, and shrubs.

Signs of whitefly infestation

Damage Caused by Whiteflies

Whiteflies can be an incredibly costly infestation to have costing you hundreds to thousands of dollars to replace or repair trees, shrubs, plants that are infested. Honeydew left by whiteflies is extremely sticky and very difficult to clean off, and may require pressure cleaning to remove. Ants also feed on the honeydew, so if ants become a problem, plants should be examined closely for these pests. As the infested plants ooze honeydew, black mold grows into the honeydew and covers the leaves and branches. The black sooty mold fungus interferes with the plant’s growth and long term livelihood. Waxy material and the sooty mold on the plant will take time to wear off unless physically washed off. Once the insect is under control, the sooty mold and honeydew will disappear.

Homeowners must monitor plants for early signs of an infestation. It will be easier to manage the pest before it causes major damage. If you have an infestation on a tree, be sure to search nearby trees as well because this whitefly feeds on many types of trees. The spiraling whitefly can cause serious harm to you home’s landscaping. If you suspect this pest is infesting your home or business it is best to treat immediately. Just Call Hulett today for an inspection.