With pretty solid evidence linking the Zika virus to serious birth defects such as microcephaly, as well as Guillian-Barre syndrome, governments in affected countries are going all out as they attempt to control mosquitos—including ground and aerial spraying of insecticides.
What is exactly is 'aerial spraying'?
Aerial spraying involves spraying a small amount of an insecticide over areas where mosquitoes live from up in the air, usually from an airplane. The continental United States has been using aerial spraying for decades in instances when the risk of serious illness in humans requires mosquito control.
Is aerial spraying safe and effective?
Yes, and yes! According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), aerial spraying of an insecticide is a safe and a proven approach to tackle mosquitoes that transmit diseases, such as the Zika virus, dengue, and chikungunya.
In order to stop the current spread of the Zika virus and keep pregnant women and their babies from being harmed, the CDC and EPA recommend aerial spraying areas with the highest population of mosquitoes spreading the virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports these recommendations.
What type of insecticides are recommended for aerial spraying?
The types of insecticides that the CDC and EPA are recommending are called organophosphates. They are currently being used in Florida to control the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Organophosphates have also been used effectively following natural disasters or other disease outbreaks in the United States.
Only small amounts of insecticides are involved in aerial spraying, thereby minimizing any health risk.
Are there any precautions I can take if I am concerned—especially for children and pets?
In places where aerial spraying may occur, no special precautions are recommended by the CDC for most people.
Parents may wish to take common sense steps to limit the amount of exposure children and pets have to the insecticide. The following tips apply to pregnant women, as well:
Cover or bring outdoor furniture and toys in from outside before spraying occurs.
Bring pet food and water dishes inside.
Keep children and pets indoors when spraying is occurring. Aerial spraying is most common around dusk and/or dawn to prevent exposure—a time when many children are sleeping.
Close windows and doors, and turn off window air-conditioning units or close their vents to circulate indoor air before spraying begins.
Pick homegrown fruits and vegetables you expect to eat soon before spraying takes place. Rinse homegrown fruits and vegetables (in fact, all produce) thoroughly with water before cooking or eating them.
Talk to your pediatrician if you have additional questions or if you think your child is experiencing any health effects from spraying. See Protecting Children from Pesticides: Information for Parents for more information and tips.
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