ABC News’ Mikaela Conley reports:
The Asian tiger mosquito, a rare and dangerous insect native to Southeast Asia, made an appearance in southern California last week, prompting action from local pest controllers and health officials.
The mosquito, known for its black body and white stripes, is capable of carrying several viruses, including dengue fever, West Nile Virus and yellow fever. It is smaller than most mosquitoes and bites during the day, not just at night, and already has a foothold in the U.S. Southeast.
While it is unclear how the Asian tiger mosquitoes arrived in Southern California, no one has become sick since spotting the bug in El Monte, Calif. The San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District plans to fog the area where the mosquito was found as early as Friday.
District officials are going door-to-door in El Monte to educate the public on how to they can assist in fixing the problem.
“We’ll be making the best effort to eliminate the mosquito,” said Kenn Fujioka, assistant manager of the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District. “It’s the risk to our public and the uncertainty how it will behave that concerns us.”
The Asian tiger mosquito made its first U.S. appearance when it surfaced in Houston in 1985 after being transported from Asia in old tires meant for recycling. The mosquitoes soon migrated to Florida, and now, more than two decades later, they can be found throughout much of the Southeast.
“People in other parts of the country aren’t able to eradicate the problem because the humid conditions are too favorable for the mosquito,” said Fujioka. “Southern California is too dry for them to take advantage of the environment so easily, so we have a better chance at fixing the problem.”
“The best way to control an area is to eliminate sources where larvae can develop,” said Fujioka.
Health officials urged residents to dump out any containers holding standing water, even very small amounts. The mosquito is known to lay eggs in small, water-filled holes like those in trees, asphalt and concrete. Dispose of any unused containers and tires stored outdoors and drill drain holes in the bottom of playground equipment. If residents in the area spot one of the bugs, officials recommend they call the agency.
“The bite will appear like any other bug bite,” said Fujioka. “If people are bitten by any type of mosquito and they develop headache, fever or rash five to seven days later, they should get in and see a doctor to rule out diseases transmitted through insects. It’s the risk we’re concerned about.”