Seattle, WA (PRUnderground) September 17th, 2017
The devastating impact of Hurricane Irma is yet to be assessed but it is already clear that this catastrophic event and its aftermath will pose considerable pest threats to residents of the affected areas. StopPestInfo.com has examined the consequences of natural disasters happening in the past, identified major pest threats to be expected after Hurricane Irma and has offered effective pest control solutions based on scientific researches.
Why are natural disasters so closely linked to the outbreak of pests and epidemics related to them? At first sight, hurricanes and floods wash away and kill insects and rodents but in fact the disaster’s ravaging impact benefits pests. The thing is that by bringing miseries and devastation, hurricanes eventually create a favorable environment for the spread of pests. There is nothing more attractive to rodents than ruined facilities and there is nothing more tempting for mosquitoes than swamps! However, the pest problem is much more nuanced, so let’s have a detailed look at it.
A Mosquitoes’ Paradise
Mosquitoes are not just a nuisance, they can transfer diseases including lethal ones. As an illustration, unfortunately for Florida which has been severely hit by the hurricane, this state is traditionally inhabited by large numbers of this species of insects due to the presence of Everglades, tropical wetlands in the south of the state. Even worse, in Florida, mosquitoes are carriers of several mortal diseases, such as Zika and malaria. So how will Hurricane Irma affect mosquito population in this state in particular, and in the hurricane-ravaged region in the whole?
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention warns that floods can bring mosquitoes that carry diseases and strongly recommends using insect repellents. Why should there be an anticipation of an increase in the number of these pests? Steve Bennett, a professor of global health at the University of St. Thomas, explains that although initially mosquito populations are reduced in the wake of hurricanes as their eggs are washed away and the adults are killed, eventually the problem gets even worse.
The new habitat which includes debris and standing water emerging in the place of the flooded areas becomes the perfect breeding ground for these pests. As Mr. Bennett put it, under these conditions a mosquito boom is to be expected. According to Chris Barker, an epidemiologist and mosquito expert at the University of California-Davis, hurricanes like Harvey enable an increase in mosquito population as their larvae have to be in stagnant water to breathe.
However, these insects could be divided into two groups: floodwater mosquitoes and standing water ones. The former lay eggs in moist soil, not standing water, which hatch only when dried out. The effect of hurricanes and storms is such that an abundant amount of water provokes egg hatching and, thus, stimulates the growth of mosquito population. Leilana McKindra from Oklahoma State University singles out the risk of floodwater mosquitoes, also known as gallinippers, which can be six times bigger than the usual ones. These giant pests bite humans causing pain, however, they normally do not carry diseases. The other group of species of these insects needs standing water to give birth to next generations. So, all these facts indicate that all species of mosquitoes thrive under post-hurricane conditions.
After natural disasters, mosquitoes can pose such a serious threat that individuals may be unable to solve the problem on their own. A good illustration of this is the situation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey when the Federal Emergency Management Agency had to mobilize military aviation assets to spray chemical substances in the vicinity of Houston. By doing so the authorities hope to suppress insects which have surged in numbers following that catastrophic event.
However, whatever the government undertakes to mitigate the pest threat, keep in mind that your fate is in your hands. Arm oneself with relevant insecticides and take all required precaution measures to counter mosquito invasion. The U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention advises using pest repellents with active ingredients DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin, as well as wearing long sleeves and pants when outside the house. A detailed guide to getting rid of mosquitoes can be found on StopPestInfo.com but below find some handy tips on how to control mosquitoes after storms.
First, clean up around the house. Remember that holes in the place of uprooted trees as well as empty objects filled with stagnant water are the breeding ground for mosquitoes. To avoid this, remove water from there and fill in the holes with turf. Since water needs to drain well, take care to clean the gutters. Large objects with stagnant water, such as swimming pool, should be treated with insecticides. For this purpose, NC State University Entomology Extension recommends solutions with an active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis in order to avoid inflicting harm to humans and pets. Spraying insecticides on foliage will not produce sustainable results if your neighbors do not take pest control measures as mosquitoes can fly over long distances in search for blood. That is why it is crucial to persuade your community to take concerted actions.
Beware Of Rats
There’s a thrilling story about a British couple trapped in a rat-infested bathroom on Sint Maarten, an island country in the Caribbean, following Irma Hurricane. While the story itself raises rather other sorts of questions, what we can learn from it as well is that having rats in your backyard is always a risk. Hazards related to rats are not just limited to the attack threat, more importantly, rodents are a source of infections and diseases, the spread of which is accelerated over the course of natural disasters and in their aftermath.
In his assessment of the consequences of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, William Powderly, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, indicates water contamination as a serious threat that communities of the affected areas face. Contaminated water supplies may spur epidemics and carry such diseases as leptospirosis which is caused by rat urine and droppings getting into the floodwaters. This one is a particularly dangerous illness as when undiagnosed it may result in the fatal outcome. Leptospirosis is also fatal to dogs what is proved by statistics: as an example, this year, three dogs died from this disease in New Jersey.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that in such urgent situations, people are often injured, with open wounds left untreated for some period of time. Upon contact, the infection much easily gets to the blood. Humans can also be infected while swimming or drinking the contaminated water. Scientists studying the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina revealed that in some areas almost a third of rats carried the pathogen.
What is crucial is that hurricanes create a favorable environment for rodents as well because they tend to move into areas abandoned by humans. This phenomenon was observed in the post-hurricane period in New Orleans where in the year 2007 alone some 3,000 rodent complaints were registered. Therefore, if there are ruined premises or piles of trash near the house, or the home’s exterior is damaged, be prepared that all this may be inhabited by rats whose nesting sites had been destroyed by the hurricane. Rats can also get into the attic and basement of your house through the holes emerged following the catastrophic event.
So what can one do? The better treatment is prevention, therefore, first of all, take all required steps to get rid of rats in the house and in the adjacent area. Only then will the risk be minimized posed by rodents, however, some part of job surely has to be done by local authorities. Now, let’s have a look at the ways to get rid of rats on one’s own. First of all, remove all storm debris and potential food sources including household waste. Then seal all gaps in the house’s exterior to prevent rodents’ penetrating inside.
Place traps with baits such as grain or oatmeal but never touch the traps without wearing gloves. Scientists from the University of California recommend placing traps in the sites where droppings and gnawings have been noticed. Traps killing rats by electrocution are more expensive but are considered by professionals to be more effective. Keep in mind that everyone affected should check this kind of traps quite often to remove dead rodents. Also, use rodenticides to obtain better results, however, ensure that children and pets do not have an access to these toxic substances.
Forewarned is forearmed.
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