US government authorities have urged incorporating aerial spraying into mosquito control programs in Puerto Rico. The recommendation comes in the wake of an increased number of recent Zika cases, especially in pregnant women, which can cause major neurological birth defects in newborns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) And Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have recently announced Puerto Rico’s best defense against Zika is aerial spraying the island. Both healthcare authorities are working in collaboration to help reduce the harmful outcomes of Zika. According to EPA, CDC will provide initial funding and technical support while EPA will provide technical and regulatory guidance for containing the situation.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, whilst shedding light on the vehement increase of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, said that if preventive measures are not taken then according to current trends, thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico will shortly catch Zika. Frieden added, “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.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release, “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 from Zika to dengue to chikungunya.”

According to CDC, $5 million in funds were recently provided to the Puerto Rican government to help implement efforts to save Americans from Zika-related health problems, including microcephaly and other serious birth defects. CDC insists upon using the funds to identify and investigate outbreaks, and coordinate various preventive efforts to help protect Zika-affected individuals.

According to CDC, aerial spraying is not the only method which can be used to contain the mosquito outbreak but it is one of the more quick and effective ones. Aerial spraying follows an integrated vector management (IVM) approach, focused on eliminating mosquitoes in every form including in their adult and larval stages.

One of the Puerto Rico’s major concerns is the resistance of mosquitos to all aerial formulations of pyrethroid insecticides. Under these circumstances, the use of a different product called Naled is being considered.

Naled is routinely applied to vast areas of the US as a method of controlling mosquitos following natural calamities like hurricanes and floods. CDC claims aerial spraying helps rapidly reduce both larval and adult mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Moreover, mosquitoes in various parts of the US have successfully been eradicated by Naled.

According to EPA, Naled does not pose adverse health effects if standard instructions are followed. EPA states Naled is sprayed in minute quantities on areas of land, enough to kill mosquitoes without harming people. Similarly, CDC ensures Naled, if and when used, would be EPA-registered and safe for humans. CDC adds the chemical would only be used in a quantity about 1 ounce (two tablespoons) per acre (4,046 square meters) or about the size of a baseball field..

Although no breathing problems like asthma occur after the application of Naled, EPA advises people to stay indoors and keep windows closed during spraying, especially people sensitive to chemicals in general since they might experience short-term effects such as skin, eye, and nose irritation. Tests carried out by the CDC in February and March 2016 showed that Naled was 100% effective in killing 14 separate populations of Aedes aegypti across Puerto Rico.

Although EPA believes that Naled has the potential to solve Puerto Rico’s recent problems with dengue, chikungunya and Zika, the final decision on whether or not to utilize aerial spraying still lies in the hands of Puerto Rican authorities.

Microcephaly is a neurological birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than the expected size of healthy babies of the same age and size. According to CDC, such babies have undeveloped smaller brains.

Other health complications faced by microcephalic babies include; seizures and developmental delays with problem in speech, sitting, standing, and walking. Such babies also face intellectual disabilities, problems in movement and balance, feeding problems, hearing losses and vision problems.