Florida May See Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

In the news this week you may have noticed articles with eye catching headlines about genetically modified mosquitoes being released into the Florida Keys. In a nutshell, Florida is waiting for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to approve an experiment in which a mosquito would be used as a drug to cure (stay with us, we’ll explain) some of the diseases mosquitoes can carry, specifically Aedes aegypti, a tiger-striped invader whose biting females spread these viruses.

Over the past year we’ve been keeping you updated on Chikungunya as it crossed into the United States in the summer of 2014. The disease is not fatal, but can be extremely painful if contracted. Also more common in the southern United States is Dengue fever. Dengue can cause high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain. With Chikungunya having the same symptoms and neither one having a cure, researchers are constantly looking for ways to stop these illnesses from spreading.

This is where the British company Oxitec comes in with a strategy to use the mosquito as a drug and possible solution. Oxitec has been altering the DNA of the tiger mosquito, releasing bioengineered male mosquitoes into the population. The modified males then mate with wild females, whose offspring die before reaching adulthood, thus reducing the population. Oxitec has already conducted experiments in other countries that have reported favorable results. Company spokeswoman Chris Creese said the Florida test will be similar in size to Oxitec’s 2012 experiment in the Cayman Islands, where 3.3 million modified mosquitoes were released over six months, suppressing 96 percent of the targeted bugs. Oxitec says a later test in Brazil was also successful, and both countries now want larger-scale projects. Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes this spring in Key Haven, but FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said no field tests will be allowed until the agency has “thoroughly reviewed all the necessary information.”

The necessary information Eisenman is referring to includes questions the public has been asking like what if altered females (the gender that bites for blood) are mistakenly released into the wild and as such, what if I get bitten by a modified mosquito? Does this genetically altered DNA affect me? Oxitec says the proteins are non-toxic and non-allergenic, yet public concern remains high throughout Florida. The FDA will be reviewing all data from past experiments before allowing this to happen in the United States.

It is important to remember that at the end of the day, we’re all trying to solve the same problem and that is eliminating mosquitoes and keeping our communities safe and healthy. This experiment is one way people are looking to research, and ultimately science, for a unique solution. We trust that the FDA will do their due diligence to cross off any health or safety concerns and make the best decision for the end goal.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, you should always be mindful when outdoors around prime mosquito feeding times (dusk and dawn) to stay protected from mosquito borne illness, especially in Florida. It’s best to have an active form of protection against mosquitoes in your yard, like the barrier spray treatments we offer, but at a minimum make sure to wear long sleeves and pants when outside during peak mosquito times and eliminate standing water in your yard. Want more tips? Contact your local Mosquito Joe!

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Real Housewives and Vector Borne Disease?

I will admit I am a huge Real Housewives fan. I know, I know it isn’t exactly Emmy award winning stuff, but after a long day of juggling work, a toddler and an active duty military husband who is often away, sometimes it is oh so nice to get caught up in the (ridiculous) world of these ladies. It is completely mindless TV and certainly has never intersected with my job or blogging about mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Until now, that is.

This week on her blog the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster opened up about her struggle with Lyme disease and news articles started popping up all over my Twitter and Facebook feed. I was so shocked to read about the incredible journey she’s been on; first trying to get diagnosed and then her battle with this terrible disease all brought on by a tick bite. But more importantly than that, I was really inspired by her bringing this to light and sharing a personal story. Very little is known about Lyme disease and there is no vaccine or cure.

Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick and in 60-80 percent of cases, a rash resembling a bull’s eye appears and expands around or near the site of the bite. The early stage of Lyme disease can include symptoms such as chills and fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain. If Lyme disease is unrecognized or untreated in the early stage, more severe symptoms may occur. As the disease progresses, severe fatigue, a stiff aching neck, and tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur. The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months or years after the tick bite. These can include severe headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous system problems such as what Yolanda Foster describes in this interview.

Just last week I was blogging about the new tick borne virus out of Kansas and here I am talking about ticks again. It may seem like the problem is growing rapidly, but really it is our awareness that’s growing, thanks to people like Yolanda who talk about their health journey and advocate for vaccines and cures. It is also something to keep in mind because spring will be here before we know it. As I said just last week, if you’re someone who spends a great deal of time or works outdoors, it is important to keep yourself covered during prime tick season. If you have questions about tick control for your yard for the 2015 season,  just give us a call.

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New Tick Borne Disease Identified

Over the Christmas holiday some unsettling news came out of Kansas. Over the summer a farmer from Bourbon County, Kansas passed away after only 10 days in the hospital. With many tick bites from farming and his symptoms mimicking those of other tick borne illnesses, those were the first tests run. He tested negative for Rocky Mountain Fever and Lyme Disease. After more testing was done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Kansas it was confirmed he had a virus that had not been previously identified.

An otherwise healthy man, the virus has been attributed to ticks, and was named after the residence of the farmer, Bourbon Virus. “We don’t know the full spectrum of disease because it’s the first case,” says Dana Hawkinson, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at The University of Kansas Hospital. For example, no one knows whether or not the disease is usually deadly or if there could be more mild cases from which future patients could recover. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and a general feeling of malaise. But while similar tick-borne illnesses typically are treated with antibiotics, this disease is transmitted by a virus, and therefore won’t respond to the medication.

While we’re in the middle of winter, this isn’t really a concern as ticks are only active from around April to September. But, it is something to be mindful of as we all dream of warmer weather. If you’re someone who spends a great deal of time or works outdoors, it is important to keep yourself covered during prime tick season. If you have questions about tick control for your yard for the 2015 season,  just give us a call. As research continues and more information is revealed about the virus, Mosquito Joe will keep you updated.

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Top Five MoJo Moments of 2014

This is our 100th blog post, and as I’ve pondered what it should be about, I couldn’t help but reflect. It is the first week back in the office for the new year and doesn’t the new year always make you take a peek back at what unfolded the preview 12 months? So for the ceremonious 100th blog post and the first blog of 2015, I unveil the top five Mosquito Joe moments. Drum roll please:

  1. In January we hosted the first annual Mosquito Joe Franchise Convention here in Virginia Beach and it was truly amazing. Seeing franchisees come together and share experience, laughter and maybe a couple of cocktails was the perfect way to kick off the start of the new year.
  2. Our Beat the Bloodsuckers campaign for Mosquito Control Awareness week raised over $2,000 for local blood banks across the United States. We even got our Head Joe over to the blood donation center to donate blood. It was a great week and we’re proud of all of our franchisees who participated.
  3. In January we were ranked in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 after just our first year of franchising. That was a huge milestone for us and we couldn’t have been more honored to be included among some great brands in that list.  They also called us out as a Top Franchise to Watch in 2014. In the fall we were named by the Franchise Business Review as a top emerging franchise and a top franchise for veterans. What a year for recognition for this great business opportunity.
  4. Over the course of our season in 2014, we serviced over 14,000 customers across the country. That is such a huge deal to us because as the Mosquito Joe family grows that means we’re making outside fun again for more families. 14,000 mosquito free people? We couldn’t be more proud.
  5. And last but certainly not least, we reached a huge milestone in September with our 100th territory, bringing us to 21 states in just 21 months. Combined with the number of customers we serviced, it was the perfect way to wrap up the year.

Thanks for helping make 2014 our best year yet, and thanks for taking this journey with us as you read along on our blog. Stay tuned, we know 2015 is going to be even better. We hope you have a wonderful New Year with some MoJo moments of your own.

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