There are thousands of species of mosquitoes throughout the world, with the United States being home to 176 of those species. Believe it or not, the state of Alabama is home to two species of mosquitoes that are responsible for the spread of well-known viruses such as Zika, West Nile, dengue, and chikungunya.

One of these species is the Culex mosquito, also known as the common house mosquito. The Culex mosquito lays its eggs on the surface of standing water, where it remains until adulthood. The male Culex mosquitos feed solely on plant nectar; the female Culex, however, requires a blood meal for sustenance. Culex mosquitoes are primarily nighttime feeders and come down to feed on humans when they sense CO2 which humans give off when they exhale. Culex mosquitoes have been known to contribute to the spread of encephalitis, filariasis, and West Nile virus.

The other species found in Alabama is the Aedes species. Like the Culex mosquito, the Aedes species also lays its eggs in standing water. It is also the female Aedes who is responsible for spreading disease to humans. Aedes mosquitoes are primarily daytime feeders and live closer to the ground in shady areas. The Aedes mosquito has been known to contribute to the spread of Zika virus as well as other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

How Can You Get Zika?

Zika can be transmitted to humans in a variety of ways. The most common mode of transmission is through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. Zika can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, from an infected human to another via sexual contact, as well as through blood transfusions.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Zika?

Currently there is no vaccine for Zika. The best way to protect yourself and your family from Zika is to prevent mosquito bites from infected mosquitoes. Using insect repellent is the best and easiest way to prevent bites from mosquitoes and reapply as necessary. Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. Treat your clothes, as well as your exposed skin, with insect repellent.

Take precautions with babies and young children, as well. Use age appropriate insect repellent when permitted. Dress them in long sleeved clothing and keep their crib, stroller, and baby carrier covered.

Protect your home as well as your family from mosquitoes with monthly mosquito reduction treatments by a licensed pest control company. Mosquito treatments are one of the most effective ways to prevent mosquito bites and Zika. Mosquito reduction treatments target adult mosquitoes as well as mosquito larvae in both breeding and resting sites, thereby reducing the overall population of mosquitoes around your home. You’ll also be able to spend more time outdoors enjoying your yard this summer!

In addition to professional mosquito treatments, you can further protect yourself at home by making sure there are screens on windows and doors and that those screens are in good condition with holes patched or replaced. Use your air conditioning when possible to avoid open windows. Check inside and outside your home for anything that might hold water. At least once a week turn them over, remove the water, and scrub them clean to help eliminate breeding areas for mosquitoes. This could include flower pots, tires, buckets, toys, pools, birdbaths, planters, and trash containers. Make sure storage containers, such as rain barrels, are covered or, if they don’t have covers, cover them with wire mesh.

Take precautions when travelling. Several countries have been identified as having Zika outbreaks. Avoid travel to these areas if possible. If you must travel to a Zika-prone area, use the same precautions mentioned above to help prevent mosquito bites.

If you suspect you have been exposed to the Zika virus, contact a health care provider right away.