NEWMAN - A non-native mosquito species capable of transmitting Zika and other diseases often linked to tropical climates has been detected in Newman.
David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, told Mattos Newspapers Monday that a small number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, often referred to as yellow fever mosquitoes, have been collected in the area of Hills Ferry Road and Driskell Avenue.
He stressed that public involvement in reporting the unusual mosquito will be instrumental in helping the agency’s campaign to control the insects.
The invasive mosquitoes have been found in a growing number of California counties. The Aedes aegypti mosquito was detected in the city of Merced last summer, and turned up in Modesto a few weeks ago.
“This is a significant development,” Heft stressed.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are capable of transmitting viruses such as such as Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya. While those diseases are currently not known to be transmitted locally in California, Heft said the fear is that people infected with one of those viruses while traveling could become a source of local transmission via the invasive mosquitoes.
The native Culex mosquitoes do not transmit those diseases.
Heft said the district is immediately launching an effort to determine the scope of the mosquitoes’ presence.
We are going to try to figure out the extent of it,” he commented. “We picked up a couple of individuals, so it wasn’t heavy, but we need to put out traps this week to try to get a better idea of the scope.”
Heft said the district will also schedule aerial treatments for this weekend, but cautioned that the nature of the Aedes aegypti mosquito requires measures well beyond typical eradication efforts.
“This is a very labor intensive, door to door, back yard to back yard attack,” he stated. “Hopefully (the presence) is small and early, and with some coordinated efforts we can significantly reduce them or get rid of them for a while.”
Heft said the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are closely associated with humans.
They can live their entire life indoors, he explained, and are aggressive day biters - whereas the Culex mosquitoes are more commonly active at dawn and dusk.
The insects are smaller than common mosquitoes, and have black and white coloring.
“They are out in the middle of the day and leave very nasty bites,” Heft said. “If somebody is out on their patio in the middle of the day and is getting bit, that is not normal. Those are the calls we want to receive from anybody in Newman.”
The mosquitoes may not be noticeable at low population levels, he added, but their presence will become very obvious if the population builds to a certain level.
Knowing that the invasive mosquitoes have been a growing presence in California, Heft said, the district has been planning for their detection from both an operational and financial standpoint.
“These mosquitoes are difficult to control, but nobody is giving us more money to handle this,” he said. “We feel that we are in a good position, but it is something that is very significant.”
He reiterated the importance of residents reporting the presence of unusual mosquitoes, saying those reports are valuable in helping the district track the presence of the insect and guide eradication efforts.
“Those phone calls will really help us,” Heft emphasized.
Reports may be directed to the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, 634-1234.