Henrico launches webpage focused on mosquito prevention, information about Zika virus

Henrico residents now can get tips on eliminating potential mosquito-breeding habitat on their properties and learn about the county’s efforts to prevent local transmission of the Zika virus at henrico.us/zika.

The new webpage brings together a range of information from the Henrico County Health Department and the Department of Public Works and highlights the county’s multi-agency efforts to raise awareness about the connection between containers of standing water — even small amounts — Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Information is available in Spanish as well as English.

Zika, which is transmitted to people primarily by the bite of an infected mosquito, is prevalent in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Current cases in the United States are among individuals who traveled to a Zika-affected region; as of June 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that none of the U.S. cases are the result of local transmission.

The county’s webpage features simple steps for controlling the Asian tiger mosquito, the most common nuisance mosquito in Henrico. Marked by distinctive black and white striping, the Asian tiger is the only local species potentially capable of spreading the Zika virus, said environmental program specialist Randy Buchanan, who heads Henrico’s Standing Water Initiative.

“Asian tiger mosquitoes only lay their eggs in containers of water, such as buckets, corrugated pipe, tarps and old tires,” he said. “The majority of these mosquitoes are coming out of containers that are in our own yards.”

Buchanan noted that a container holding as little as 2 tablespoons of water for seven days is a sufficient habitat for the Asian tiger mosquito to reproduce.

The webpage describes measures residents can take to reduce the presence of mosquitoes on their properties, such as checking and emptying containers once a week during the May-through-October mosquito season. Residents and business owners can submit a form on the webpage to request a mosquito inspection of their properties. They also can get tips for preventing bites and choosing the appropriate mosquito repellent.

Dr. Susan Fischer Davis, director of the Henrico County Health Department, said that some individuals infected with Zika will have mild, non-specific symptoms such as fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain for about a week. However, most individuals with Zika — about 80 percent — won’t have symptoms and won’t know they have it.

“Pregnant women are a population we are concerned about if they get Zika virus infection,” she said, noting that infection during pregnancy has been determined to be a cause of microcephaly, a serious birth defect.

The webpage provides information from the Virginia Department of Health and CDC describing Zika’s symptoms, detailing regions impacted by the virus and offering advice for pregnant women who may have traveled to an affected area.

“Information about Zika virus infection is evolving daily,” Davis said. “But the key message is prevention, and that starts with eliminating breeding habitat for Asian tiger mosquitoes and protecting yourself from mosquito bites. Each of us has a role in that effort.”

For more information, go to henrico.us/zika.