By Price McKeon

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY (CW44 News At 10) – As the Southern US enters peak mosquito season, many are asking if mosquitoes can spread COVID-19. Science shows mosquitoes can spread some viruses to humans, but can it spread the novel Coronavirus that’s created a worldwide pandemic.

RJ Montgomery, The Director of Hillsborough County’s Mosquito Management Services (MMS) answers that question, “As of today, there’s no scientific evidence that a mosquito is competent in spreading COVID-19 from any host to any other host.”

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He then proceeds to outline some of the viruses that mosquitoes in Florida have shown to transmit: West Nile, Zika, Malaria, Dengue Fever, Eastern Equine Encephalitis. His county team is tasked with monitoring mosquitoes looking out for those type of viruses and helping stop the potential spread of those, whether by land or by air.

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Chickens also help them control the mosquito population. Leonard Burns, Senior Supervisor at MMS says, “We’ve strategically placed them North, South, East and West on the interior part of [Hillsborough] county. We can monitor viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes.” Every week, the county tests 60 chickens that are in 10 locations around Hillsborough County.

“We can run a test that day and in 90 minutes have a result,” says Sarah Shafer, an Entomologist for MMS, and possibly start spraying for mosquitoes that night. It’s new to their lab this year.

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CW44’s Price McKeon also asked Ms. Shafer about mosquitoes and possibly spreading COVID-19,  “Oh, no, no, no. COVID-19 is a very different type of virus from any kind of Arthropod-borne virus that would be spread by a mosquito.”

We learned that chickens aren’t the only animals that help the county. June 27th is the first Saturday of a series of times throughout the summer that Hillsborough residents can pick up fish which help this team keep mosquitoes in check across the county. The fish can consume between 100 and 200 larva a day. The county gives these fish to residents to try to help control the population, which can be placed in an ornamental pond, a rain barrel, or a dysfunctional swimming pool – and the mosquito larva will be consumed by the fish.

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Here are some tips to reduce your chances of getting bitten:

  • Clothing
    • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, etc.
  • Repellant
    • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin
  • Windows and screens
    • Make sure window and door screens are bug-tight
    • Check your screens periodically to make sure there are no holes, and replace worn screens
  • Time of day
    • Try to stay indoors during prime mosquito times of dawn and dusk

The easiest way to prevent mosquito bites is to prevent them from breeding in the first place. Mosquito larvae need water to grow, so the most effective method to keep them from reproducing is to deprive them of water.

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Check out where mosquitoes like to breed:

  • Rain gutters
    • Keep clear of leaves and other debris
  • Low areas
    • Do not over water lawns or gardens
  • Fountains and bird baths
    • Clean or hose out weekly
  • Potted plant saucers
    • Don’t over water
    • Flush out saucers with a hose or drill holes in the bottom to allow for better drainage
  • Water bowls for pets
    • Rinse and fill with fresh water 1 to 2 times a week
  • Containers
    • Store containers upside down, cover or place in a sheltered area
  • Leaky hoses
    • Replace damaged hoses and fix leaky faucets and pipes
  • Pools and spas
    • Maintain even when not in use
    • Remove standing water from the top of pool and spa covers
  • Tires
    • Drill holes in tire swings
    • Recycle used tires or store in a covered area
  • Rot holes in trees
    • Be aware that water can collect in rot holes, crotches and dead tree stumps
    • Check with an arborist for best way to manage water or fill cavities
  • Ponds
    • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquitofish
    • Keep ponds free and clear of excess vegetation
  • Boats
    • Cover with a tight-fitting tarp
  • Trash bins
    • Keep lids shut tight and remove any water that may accumulate inside