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Tiger mosquitoes reach Ohio, more nuisance than health threat

October 3, 2018

Tiger mosquitoes reach Ohio, more nuisance than health threat

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nancy Matia thought she saw the last of the vicious, disease-spreading tiger mosquitoes when she moved from Texas to Tremont. But it looks like the little buggers followed her.

“In 1998 in Dallas we were infested with these mosquitoes,” she said. “We actually thought about selling the house to get away from them.”

For other reasons, Matia moved to Cleveland about three years ago and was surprised when her old adversaries showed up.

“I was at a party a few weeks ago and came home covered with bites,” she said. “It felt like the bites of the tiger mosquito, then I actually found one dead on the counter top. This is a game changer for outdoor parties.”

The bad news is that indeed, the tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) have made their way to Northeast Ohio from the South. The good news is that they are not the health threat here that they are in other places, according to officials of the Cuyahoga County Health Department.

The National Pest Management Association, of Vienna, Va., describes the pest as a daytime-biting insect that gets its name from the single white stripe that runs down its head and back. It is native to Southeast Asia, where the mosquito can transmit harmful diseases like the Zika and West Nile viruses; Chikingunya and dengue fever. But things are different here.

Joe Lynch, program manager of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said the local tiger mosquitoes  that arrived here within the past few years, are unlikely to transmit such diseases here.

“The difference is these diseases start with a human host,” he said. “Since there are few, if any, people in Northeast Ohio carrying Zika or dengue fever, we don’t worry much about that. People here can get West Nile Virus, but if they do they are what we call a ‘dead end host’ and will not transmit the virus to others through a mosquito bite.” 

That being said, the tiger mosquito and his friends can really ruin an outdoor party.

Lynch said they are very persistent biters and they love to attack humans. They will keep trying until they hit skin, then it gets nasty because they call their friends.

“If you see one, you’ll soon see dozens,” Lynch said. “They travel in large groups and once one finds a victim, they will swarm you.”

As with all mosquitoes, the best defense is a good offense.

“These are backyard mosquitoes so if you see them, they have a breeding groud close by,” said Michael Bentley, director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association. “Look for water containers where they breed and dump them. Problem is, they can breed in a water-filled bottle cap, divots in a grill cover or in certain plants that hold water, so people have to be vigilant and seek out all sources.”

Lynch said the more common sources would wading pools, birdbaths and buckets left out in the rain. Ohio’s rainfall and warm temperatures have provided a perfect breeding ground for all mosquitoes, including the tiger.

The other good news: topical insect repellents are effective against all mosquitoes.

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