GLEN ROSE – Mosquito bites – especially those suffered in the Lone Star State – can be more than just annoying. MUCH more.

In many cases they can be deadly.

That is why the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has released a public advisory, cautioning the residents of this particular portion of North Texas that the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus is a potential threat to many – including unborn babies.

This release comes from the direct advice of entomologists who have stepped up efforts to educate the public about self-protection from Zika. Janna Reynolds, Somervell County secretary for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, distributed it to the Glen Rose Reporter.

Dr. Sonja Swiger, AgriLife Extension entomologist out of Stephenville, said people who enjoy outdoor activities and travel during the summer months need to remember that avoiding being bitten by mosquitos is probably the best deterrent of all.

Dr. Swiger said there are 46 recorded cases of Zika in Texas – all travel associated – except for one contracted sexually from their partner who traveled. No Texas mosquitoes have been found to be infected.

“As the many media accounts report, women infected by the virus while pregnant are known to have babies with severe neurological defects,” she said in a news release. “Aside from mosquito infections, additional cases may occur from sexual transmission of the disease. So at this point, controlling mosquitoes and protecting yourself from infection are the two key factors in the rigorous defense against this new mosquito-borne virus threat.”

Dr. Swiger said “the Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes that transmit Zika” occur commonly in backyards where their eggs are laid and larvae live in standing water.

Like other mosquito species, they are active at sunrise and sunset, but commonly bite throughout the day as well, the release shows.

One official said he doesn’t believe Glen Rose is in much danger from Zika.

Taylor Sexton, a North Texas epidemiologist, said he believes the Glen Rose area is in a "low risk" category.

"The flight radius of the A. Agyptii mosquito is very limited and since we are so spread out I cannot imagine significant transmission risk if a mosquito bites an infected individual," Sexton said in a recent interview. "Also, the number of visitors from Zika affected countries is very limited.”

According to the Centers for Disease control, these mosquitoes that carry Zika are "most active during the day,” Sexton said.

"Somervell County is relatively dispersed and the potential of transmission is lower than that of cities with a large volume of visitors and travelers from Zika affected countries," Sexton said.

Among the tips suggested by Dr. Swiger to combat Zika include draining empty standing water to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites. Also, wearing long sleeved shirts and pants and applying mosquito repellant when going outside goes a long way toward preventing any contact to begin with.

It is paramount avoid outdoor activity during the two most mosquito-active periods of sunrise and sunset Dr. Swiger said.

Sexton said the Centers for Disease Control states mosquitoes are "most active during the day."

"Somervell County is relatively dispersed and the potential of transmission is lower than that of cities with a large volume of visitors and travelers from Zika affected countries," Sexton said.

In addition to dressing sensibly, Dr. Swiger said repairing screen doors and windows are sensible steps that are critically important to keeping mosquitoes out.

Managing landscape water features is another key area to address.

“Mosquito dunks – commonly sold in garden centers for mosquito control in home water features – can be used to treat water that cannot be readily drained,” Dr. Swiger said. “The dunks contain insect growth regulators or mosquito-specific bacteria to effectively control mosquito larvae. Neither approach is harmful to fish or other aquatic organisms.”

Dr. Mike Merchant, AgriLife Extension urban entomologist at Dallas, said fighting Zika will be much different than fighting West Nile virus. Aedes mosquitoes infected with Zika are not easily detected, so health officials have to rely on actual human cases to identify hot spots, according to the release.

“In addition, city and county truck-mounted sprayers are less effective at killing Aedes mosquitoes, so stopping these mosquitoes in each and every backyard is even more important,” Dr. Merchant said. “Everyone will need to pitch in.”

Anything that holds water – anything at all – should be dumped or treated.

Breeding areas can include sites as benign as containers under potted plants and birdbaths.

Other trouble areas are old tires, empty cans and bottles, kiddie pools, buckets, boat tarps and even clogged gutters.

Swiger said there are many mosquito repellents available, but all approved formulations share two commonalities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registration of these repellent products means that the active ingredient has been tested and is safe for people to use. It also means that it is effective in repelling mosquitoes when used as directed.

“Users should always read and follow label instructions,” Dr. Swiger said. “Most repellents can be used on children over two months of age, with the exception of those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, which should not be used on children younger than 3 years old. For babies under two months of age, infant carriers fitted with mosquito netting are recommended. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers can safely use EPA-approved insect repellents.”

Swiger said constant vigilance is the key to slowing Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus.

“It’s the global world we live in today,” she said. “As people travel and return from areas affected by Zika, some will return carrying the virus. When Aedes mosquitoes bite infected people, they acquire the virus. The mosquito then transmits it to an uninfected person, passing the virus to them.”

To inquire further, contact Swiger at 254-968-4144 or slswiger@ag.tamu.edu or Merchant at 972-952-9204, m-merchant@tamu.edu

More information is also available online at Texasinsects.org, Livestockvetento.tamu.edu, and Preventingzika.org.