US urges Puerto Rico to spray for mosquitoes to stop Zika

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Two federal agencies are pushing the Puerto Rican people and government to consider spraying for mosquitoes as a way to slow the spread of the Zika virus.

In an advisory released late Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Puerto Rico should begin spraying for mosquitoes, and that they would provide funding and assistance to get the effort off the ground.

{mosads}Mosquito bites can transmit Zika, a virus that can cause a severe birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

The virus is prevalent in Puerto Rico, which has seen just under 2,000 cases. Spraying for mosquitoes could help slow the rate of infection there, officials said.

“Multiple independent data sources indicate that at current trends thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico will catch Zika,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said a statement.

“The continental United States has been using aerial spraying for decades to reduce mosquito populations, and we urge the people of Puerto Rico to consider using the same proven and safe tactic.”  

The CDC and EPA said they will work with Puerto Rico to develop a spraying plan there. The government will also provide $500,000 to dispose of manmade objects that can host mosquito breeding pools, such as discarded tires, and will help communities deploy chemicals to kill adult and young mosquito populations.

“An integrated and comprehensive approach includes reducing places where mosquitoes lay eggs, keeping them out of houses, and reducing the populations of both larval and adult mosquitoes by treating areas with EPA-approved products,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

“We strongly encourage the people of Puerto Rico to consider aerial spraying as this approach is safe for people and a proven way of controlling the spread of mosquitoes that transmit diseases.”

—This post was updated at 12:02 p.m.

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