Will Hurricane Hermine Make The Zika Outbreak Worse? Experts Have Some Reassuring Words
With the advent of Hurricane Hermine, many are fearing that will make the fight against Zika in Florida more difficult. But wait just a minute; things might not be as dire as it sounds. Yes, Florida is dealing with troubling developments. The virus spread in Miami Beach — the first mosquito transmission in the continental United States — and just Thursday it was announced that Zika was found in trapped mosquitoes for the first time. All the while a hurricane was bearing down the state's neck. But Hurricane Hermine will not adversely affect Zika prevention.
That's according to experts from the CDC, at least. The Weather Channel's Sean Breslin reported that, if anything, the storm should wash away mosquito larvae. Even if there's standing water after Hermine moves through, there's no precedent of a storm worsening a mosquito-spread outbreak. Dr. Ben Beard of the CDC explained to Weather.com in a statement:
Natural disasters in the continental United States have rarely been accompanied by outbreaks of viruses spread by mosquitoes.
Breslin further explained why the storm won't be a problem. One, "floodwaters will wash away any existing larvae populations," he wrote, citing the CDC. Then two, any mosquitoes that do reach the adult stage after the storm will not carry Zika or any other viruses. They only can carry the disease after biting an infected animal or person.
Plus the specific type of mosquito that carries Zika doesn't like to breed in the kind of water that a hurricane produces. Jerome Goddard, a professor of medical etymology at Mississippi State University told USA Today that the Aedes aegypti mosquito tries to live near people and reproduce in man-made containers, not in standing flood water in your yard. "Lots of rain from a hurricane wouldn't make much difference for Aedes aegypti, since they are so specialized in where they breed," he told the paper.
But that doesn't mean standing water should be ignored. Draining standing water will continue to be one of the most important aspects of the state's Zika prevention plan. Reuters reported that state officials have been going around and cleaning the upper ring of any container that once had standing water in it. That's where mosquitoes lay their eggs, and the only way to get rid of them is to scrub them away. Also on hold due to the hurricane is aerial spraying of pesticides. With heavy winds, it's not safe to fly a plane.
Also a potential problem is the distraction factor. Florida residents will be focused on disaster relief and not mosquito prevention. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt explained why to Reuters. "People around their homes will be worried about themselves and their families and neighbors rather than looking for mosquito breeding sites. Emergency responders will be focused on things other than mosquito abatement," he told the news agency.
Other common sense precautions like wearing bug repellent and repairing screens and broken windows will help too. And this hurricane recovery season, the focus of any state or federal aid should extend to mosquito prevention too.