Video: California residents cautioned to look out for yellow fever mosquito

The polka-dotted bug, which can also carry dengue, bites during the day and can lay eggs in less than a teaspoon of standing water.

October 21, 2013|By Diana Marcum

FRESNO — A mosquito that can carry dengue and yellow fever has been found in California, prompting intense eradication efforts in the Central Valley and warnings from officials about how to keep the pest from spreading.

"It could change the way we live in California, if we don't stop it," said Tim Phillips of the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District. "Imagine not feeling safe to sit out in your backyard in the afternoons."

The yellow fever mosquito, or Aedes aegypti — a white polka-dotted bug that bites during the day and can lay its eggs in less than a teaspoon of water — was first detected in June in Madera, the Los Angeles Times reported.


"We were shocked," said Leonard Irby, district manager of Madera's abatement program. "We never expected this mosquito in California."

An eradication effort was launched that included agents going door to door to warn people about standing water. But soon the mosquito was found in Clovis and Fowler. It turned up in August in the Bay Area's San Mateo County, and this week in Fresno. Officials are spraying insecticide around infected homes.

"This affects all of California," Irby said. "It requires everyone's help: Turn over plant saucers, wash out dog bowls, remember this mosquito can lay eggs even in the cracks of cement if water is left there for a couple of days." The bug can even lay eggs in flowering plants such as bromeliads.

None of the mosquitoes have been found in the Los Angeles area. Across California, vector control agents constantly trap mosquitoes to look for any invasive species.

Because of a recent infestation of the Asian Tiger mosquito in Southern California, agencies were already monitoring more traps, said Mark Daniel, director of operations for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

"There is no evidence of aegypti in Los Angeles. But you can never say with 100% certainty," he said. "Our brother and sister agencies in the Central Valley are being very aggressive and we're on high alert."

So far, none of the trapped mosquitoes have carried disease. The California Department of Public Health reported 200 cases of dengue fever since 2010, all contracted out of the country.

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