Taking a Bite Out of the Fight Against Zika

With increasing number of returning Americans being diagnosed as carriers of the Zika virus, the increasing chance of transfer of the virus to a local mosquito population is growing. In response to this possibility, and the resulting chance of Zika outbreaks in the US, National Geographic recently discussed the structure of mosquito control within America, with respect to tracking, spraying, and surveillance.

Of critical importance is the observation that the current method, handled in many cases at the city or county level with many potential departments involved, offers many opportunities for gaps or oversights, as well as inconsistencies in funding and resources. Joseph Conlan, a former US Navy entomologist and current spokesman for the American Mosquito Control Association, notes, “There are more than 700 mosquito-abatement districts in the United States, and it can be very difficult to figure out where they fit into public health. Chesapeake, Va. has its own taxing district, nothing to do with the health department. Massachusetts has seven mosquito-control districts, run by the state; so does Delaware. Florida has a government body that establishes policy, but mosquito control is done at the county level; I think they’ve got 66 local abatement districts.”

In reference to another mosquito-borne disease, the West Nile virus, in 2014, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists looked into funding and support for mosquito control, and noted significant drops from 2004 to 2012, with overall federal funding being reduced from $24 million to $10 million, and significant drops in staff and surveillance.

With reduced budgets, and patchwork coverage of mosquito control, concerns over Zika gaining a foothold in the U.S remain an item of high priority, demanding a need for rapid response, says National Geographic.