Kimberly Ponce has heard the rumblings among her neighbors in Wynwood — what is Zika? Can it hurt me? Can I get tested?
“You know, we’ve heard about dengue. We heard about chikungunya. There’s a lot to keep track of,” said the 23-year-old, speaking to a Miami-Dade County mosquito inspector. “Some people don’t know about Zika.”
To find out more about Zika, here’s the Herald’s Q & A — From A to Zika: Answers to key questions
As angst and confusion over the virus grow, residents in this largely Spanish-speaking swath of homes north of 29th Street got guidance from Carlos Varas, a county inspector tasked with finding mosquitoes and killing them with insecticide at their source. For some folks, he was the first contact they’ve had with a public official regarding Zika.
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He carried a Zika fact sheet on his clipboard to answer questions and a head full of practical tips for ensuring mosquitoes don’t have a place to reproduce in your yard.
“If you put fresh water on those bromeliads every day, mosquitoes won’t have a chance to lay eggs,” he told Ponce in front of her 31st Street home.
Mosquitoes can start developing in a teaspoon of water
Carlos Varas, Miami-Dade County mosquito inspector
Varas is one of dozens of inspectors deployed in an effort to beef up mosquito control since health officials determined Zika is being spread by local mosquitoes. While the county starts aerial spraying before dawn Wednesday, inspectors will continue to go door-to-door to examine standing water, use foggers to kill mosquitoes and advise homeowners on how to keep eggs from hatching on their property.
Amid an oppressive midday heat Tuesday, Varas tapped on doors and gates to talk to homeowners and check open paint cans, upturned lids and anything else that could contain standing water.
“Mosquitoes can start developing in a teaspoon of water,” Varas said.
So he kicked over buckets, turned over clamshell takeout containers and shook tarps where water had pooled. At one home, even when the resident had clearly taken precautions and turned garbage containers upside down, a small trash can with a metal fire extinguisher in it had a few inches of murky water at the bottom.
And that was enough. After spotting something moving in the water, he collected some water with a manual suction tube and held it up to the sunlight. A tiny sliver of black flailed around in the liquid.
“That’s a larva,” Varas said.
After inspecting each home and advising residents he’d be back to spray, he donned a mask and revved up what looked like a high-powered leaf blower to puff clouds of insecticide outside homes.
Resident Maria Valdes said she wasn’t concerned about getting the virus, but she’s been keeping her elderly father indoors so he won’t get sick.
“I’m not worried because I’m not getting pregnant,” she said. “But I’d rather not get bitten.”
Others, like Ponce, are laying low.
“I try to be in the house more now,” she said.
Tips for controlling mosquitoes outside your home
▪ Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
▪ Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
▪ For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
▪ Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
▪ If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.