Vector control officials in Santa Barbara County are closely monitoring the county’s mosquito population as more of these insects are expected following this year’s heavy rainfall.
According to data fromCalifornia’s Department of Public Health, yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes have been found in multiple counties throughout the state.
As of May 5, only the yellow fever mosquito has been found in Santa Barbara County.
"Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water and that's where the eggs hatch and the larvae — the young — develop. But without the water, then they can't finish their lifecycle, they can't develop into the adult mosquitoes that bite us," said Brian Cabrera, Santa Barbara County Mosquito & Vector Management District General Manager.
Santa Barbara County’s Mosquito and Vector Management District is staying busy. Staff is going out on a regular basis to check for mosquito breeding and setting up traps weekly.
“We've seen areas that have never had stagnant water, standing water in them in a long time. So in our marshes, it's been pretty busy going out there because there are more areas now that are inundated with water," Cabrera added.
Yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes can carry viruses.
“The ones you hear about are yellow fever and dengue fever, Zika virus, and then Chikungunya. In general, these diseases can make you very, very sick. Yellow fever is the most likely to kill you, but the others will make you extremely ill," said Dr. Brian Roberts, Med Stop Medical Director.
Experts say there’s no cause for alarm right now. None of the viruses associated with these mosquitoes are currently known to have been transmitted within California.
“The good news is that so far we haven't had what we call any locally transmitted cases where people are actually getting it from an infected mosquito here in California," Cabrera explained.
"To the best of my knowledge, all the cases we see in the United States are imported from foreign places. We did have a case at Med Stop about ten years ago of dengue fever, but you don't catch it here and you need to remember that it's always the vector of the mosquito. There is no person-to-person transmission, so you don't have to worry about getting it from somebody else," Dr. Roberts added.
If you do plan to travel to other countries, experts say it’s important to assess whether the location is low or high risk for mosquitoes.
“Permethrin clothing — clothing that has either been sprayed with or factory-designed with that is almost always adequate. If you have a lot of exposed areas, then you can put on some DEET or other repellent products are fine, depending on your skin sensitivity," Dr. Roberts said.
Cabrera said the last time yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes were found in Santa Barbara County was in 2020.
The county did a massive trapping effort and has not seen any more since May 2021.
Residents can report mosquito sightings or bites to the Santa Barbara County Mosquito & Vector Management by calling (805) 969-5050.
Another good reminder is to check the CDC travel website to see what areas are at high risk for these mosquitoes.