Georgia Gets Ready For Unpredictable Mosquito Season

It can be hard to predict how bad the mosquitoes will be this year.
It can be hard to predict how bad the mosquitoes will be this year.
Credit James Gathany / AP/CDC

Audio version of this story here.

Fulton County has already started spraying for mosquitoes, but it can be hard to predict how bad the bugs will be.

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Fulton County started its mosquito control program in 2001, when Georgia saw its first case of West Nile virus. Kathleen Toomey, the county’s health director, said Fulton has continued the program because of other mosquito-borne diseases, like Zika.

“If it’s dry we have one type of mosquito that flourishes,” UGA entomologist Elmer Gray said. “If it’s wet we have other types of mosquitoes that flourish. So how the season plays out and what’s our biggest threat relates to what the weather conditions produce.”

Gray said mosquitoes that carry West Nile develop in storm drains when it’s dry, while Zika carrying mosquitoes develop when it’s wet as well as in containers.

Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said another factor is based on how many people and mosquitoes have the virus in any given area. Still, he said, while he expects a couple of cases of Zika, it’s unlikely the states will see a widespread transmission.

“Even when we have local transmission, we don’t have the big, infectious outbreaks like you see in other countries,” Skinner said. “People use air conditioners here. People have screens on their windows. Things like that result in the less likelihood people will actually be bitten by mosquitoes.”

Gwinnett and Cobb counties don’t spray for the biting bugs, but they do offer preventative education – like reminding people to use bug spray and pour out standing water.

The city of Atlanta will announce its plans to for mosquito control measures tomorrow.

Georgia has already seen one case of Zika this year, according to the CDC’s website.  And as the State Department of Public Health told WABE last year that Georgia sees about 10 to 15 cases of West Nile a year.