The Vector Control Division of the Madison County Health Department is responsible for mosquito and rat control in the areas of Huntsville that are located within Madison County. Our department began operating mosquito fog trucks in subdivisions of Huntsville located in Limestone County in August of 2015. Vector Control follows an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to managing the control of these pests. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with pest control methods, is used to manage these pests by the most economical means with the least possible hazard to people and the environment. The cornerstone of any IPM program is prevention.
Mosquitoes carry and transmit several diseases that infect humans and animals, such as birds and horses. In Alabama, mosquitoes transmit diseases including West Nile Virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, and LaCross encephalitis.The Vector Control Division strives to control the mosquito population in order to protect human health and to preserve the quality of life of the people by reducing the number of pestiferous and disease-carrying mosquitoes while maintaining the integrity of the environment.
Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and it is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is common in our area and has the potential to carry the Zika virus, but at this time, the Zika virus is not in our local mosquito population. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. A pregnant woman can pass the Zika virus to her baby during pregnancy and the virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Zika has been linked to birth defects and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus like to breed near humans in containers and other items around the home that can collect as little as a teaspoon of standing water. Unfortunately, due to its preferred habitat and feeding behavior (daytime biter), the mosquito fog trucks may not be very effective against the Asian tiger mosquito, that is why it is very important to remove or treat any standing water around the home, and to wear proper protective clothing and an EPA-registered insect repellent if outdoors while mosquitoes are active (please see details below). If traveling, please visit www.cdc.gov/zika for current outbreak locations and recommended travel precautions. For the most current information on Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Alabama, please go to www.adph.org/mosquito.
HOW TO REDUCE EXPOSURE
- Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active. Historically, this has been during the dawn and dusk hours; however, the Asian Tiger Mosquito has become the predominant mosquito in residential areas. This species is an aggressive daytime biter. Click here for more information on the Asian Tiger Mosquito.
- If you go outdoors, wear light-colored, tightly woven, loose clothing and insect repellent.
- Wear enough insect repellent to cover skin and clothes that contain one of the following EPA registered ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD, or IR3535. Follow all label instructions for insect repellents!
- Keep window and door screens shut and in good condition. Repair any holes.
- Inspect your yard for places a mosquito could use to breed. Mosquitoes require very little water in order to breed, in some cases, as little as a teaspoon. The best form of control is to remove any standing water from your property. This can include the following:
- Dispose of containers that collect water, such as buckets, cans, bottles, and jars;
- Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, unclog drains and gutters;
- Empty and scrub birdbaths, flower vases, potted plant dishes, pet bowls, and animal troughs twice a week to remove mosquito eggs;
- Dispose of unused tires. Overturn or store under cover wheelbarrows, tubs, wading pools when not in use;
- Fill tree holes with sand or mortar;
- Remove water from children’s toys several times a week; and
- Keep weeds, vines, and grass trimmed because adult mosquitoes like to rest in dense vegetation.
MOSQUITO SURVEILLANCE AND PESTICIDE APPLICATIONS
During the mosquito season, the Vector Control Division surveys the city for breeding areas and concentrated adult mosquito populations. Breeding areas are removed, if possible, or treated with a mosquito larvicide. City streets are fogged with a mosquito adulticide where elevated adult mosquito populations are found.
Click here for more information on mosquito biology, prevention, control, and diseases.
If you have any questions or are experiencing a mosquito problem in your area, please call (256) 532-1915 or send an email to Cheryl.Clay@adph.state.al.us.
Rats and mice can be found in most areas where people live. Many have adapted their lifestyles to those of people, sharing their food and shelter. These rodents, known as commensal rodents, are not only annoying and offensive, they can cause serious health and sanitation problems for the people whose property they share. Understanding and eliminating the basic needs of rats and mice is the best way to prevent infestations in and around your home.
Three commonly found commensal rodents are the Norway rat, the roof rat, and the house mouse.
- The Norway rat prefers to nest in underground burrows and tunnels, and can be found in sewers, basements, and other types of pits. They are excellent swimmers as well as determined tunnelers, having been known to gnaw holes through wooden beams and concrete.
- Roof rats inhabit trees, walls, attics, and rubbish piles, and are excellent jumpers and climbers.
- The house mouse prefers to live inside a house or building near people, where there is easy access to food and water
RODENTS AND DISEASE
Rats and mice can carry and transmit a number of diseases, both by the fleas and mites that they can carry, as well as by contaminating human food sources with their feces and urine. Rodents can also cause injury, as well as transmit disease, directly by their bite.
SIGNS OF RODENT INFESTATIONS
Rodents are rarely seen during the day, preferring to feed and move about at night. Signs of a rodent infestation may include finding rodent feces as well as the presence of frequently used rodent paths, known as “runways,” in and around your home. Rodents seek the security of a wall edge or fence when moving about, and will usually leave a path where they frequently run. These runways can be found along walls, steps, and rafters in your home, and will usually have dark, greasy marks called “rubmarks” where the animal has rubbed against the wall or surface along the pathway.
Other signs of rodent infestation include the presence of rodent holes or “burrows,” which can be found in earth banks, along walls, and under rubbish piles. Finding gnawed areas on wood or other surfaces around the home as well as seeing tracks and tail marks through dirt and dust, can also indicate a rodent problem.
PREVENTING RATS AND MICE
The best way to discourage rats and mice from inhabiting your home is to eliminate sources of food, water, and shelter. You can accomplish this by doing the following:Do not leave pet food outdoors overnight;
- Do not scatter excess food for birds and other animals on the ground around your home
- Store animal food and garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids, and raise them 12 inches off the ground
- Regularly remove pet feces, daily if possible, from your yard because they can be a food source for rats and mice
- Keep your property free of tall grass and weeds where rodents might hide
- Keep the area within 100 feet of your house clear of junk piles, discarded pieces of furniture, or old cars where mice or rats can nest or hide
- Stack wood and hay at least 12 inches off the ground and as far from the house as possible
- Use ¼ inch heavy wire mesh or screen to cover vents in the foundation of your home
- Screen, plug up, or cover all openings that are larger than ¼ inch. Use sheet metal and steel wool to fill and cover holes
- Keep doors to the outside closed. Repair holes in door and window screens which might allow rodents to enter your home
One option for rodent control is the use of rat and mouse poisons or “baits.” Baits should not be used as a substitute for cleaning up areas where rodents feed and nest, but they can be used as an aid in rodent control. When using rodent poisons, always read the instructions carefully and follow the directions. Never place rodent poisons where children or pets can get to them.
Click here for a list of rodenticide products that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s protective standards. These products are effective for use against household rodents, and reduce accidental exposures to children, pets and wildlife
Pest Control Professional Another option for rodent control is to use a professional exterminator. Always use reputable companies and make sure you understand the procedures and costs involved.
Click here for more information on rodents.
If you have any questions or are experiencing a rat problem in your area, please call (256) 532-1915 or send an email to Cheryl.Clay@adph.state.al.us. Please provide your name, street address, and contact information