CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - While warmer temperatures may have you swatting mosquitoes, concerns about the Zika virus are prompting new worries about the pests.
According to the South Carolina Health Department, there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus in South Carolina.
As of Monday, a total of eight samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control for testing, according to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Robert Yanity. While results of five samples are still pending, three have come back negative.
Ed Harne with the Charleston County Mosquito Control Department says it is possible the Zika virus could appear in the Lowcountry. But he says it is more likely to come from an international traveler rather than an infected mosquito.
Harne says as more people travel through the Caribbean and Latin America where the disease has been reported, the chances will increase.
The Zika virus, which is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, is not their main focus right now, Harne said, but it is on his department's radar. The aedes aegypti mosquito used to be called the yellow fever mosquito, and is rare in the Lowcountry, Harne says. His department participates in a state health department program which collects mosquitoes.
"In the course of doing that, we have picked up two aedes aegypti in the last five to ten years," Harne said. One of the mosquitoes, he said, was found in downtown Charleston and the other in West Ashley. Harne said the reason the aedes aegypti is so rare is the Asian tiger mosquito has taken over their habitat.
"We don't know how it happened biologically, but as a result, the Asian tiger is virtually the only container breeding mosquito that you'll find here," he said.
But that doesn't eliminate the concern of transmission of the Zika virus, because the Asian tiger has the potential to carry Zika. Harne said the pests breed in containers, bird baths, dog bowls, pools of water collecting on boat tarps, and are also known to breed in dead limbs that have fallen off trees.
Charleston County Mosquito Control sprays when temperatures are above 50 degrees. Below that temperature, Harne said, the mosquito activity stops.
"In February, you're going to have a mixture of warm days and cool days, and when that happens, people get out and encounter mosquitoes," Harne said.
He recommends people protect themselves if they're going to be in a place where they might get bitten:
- Use insect repellent
- Wear long sleeves, and light colored clothing
- Make sure you empty potential breeding places around your home and clean those places out weekly.
If you have questions or concerns, you can contact the Charleston County Mosquito Control at (843) 202-7886 or through the county's website at charlestoncounty.org.