There were 1,306 cases of Zika virus in the United States as of July 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly all were acquired by travelers to areas where Zika is transmitted by mosquitos.
Zika has not yet been transmitted in the United States through mosquito bites. But you can take steps now to protect your guests and employees, especially if you offer outdoor dining.
Jim Fredericks of the National Pest Management Association and Aaron Hobbs of Responsible Industry for a Sound America offered these seven takeaways during a recent National Restaurant Association webinar:
1. Assess your site. Mosquitos typically breed where water collects. Planters, flower pots and raised decks are likely suspects. Watch debris like plastic and other containers. Even bottle caps that hold small amounts of water for more than five days should be discarded.
2. Eliminate potential breeding grounds. Mosquitoes that transmit Zika typically stay within 100 meters of where they hatch their eggs. By eliminating standing water and potential breeding areas on your property, you can significantly reduce the population of biting and breeding mosquitoes.
3. Know thy enemy. Only female mosquitoes bite humans; they need the protein in blood to produce eggs. They primarily bite during the daytime or dusk. The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquito. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, headache and conjunctivitis. It also can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and cause birth defects.
4. Don’t leave mops and buckets out for mosquitoes to breed in. Also, make sure you clear drinks away from the bar.
5. Talk with a pest management provider about solutions.
6. Treat shrubbery and vegetative areas on outdoor patios. This creates a barrier on the property.
7. Dress appropriately. Employees working outside where mosquitoes are present or biting should wear long-sleeve shirts and pants as well as mosquito repellent.
“We don’t expect today for this to be an issue in the United States like it is in other hot spots,” Hobbs said. “Our primary concern is preventing people from being bitten. This is going to have to be a community effort.”