With summer just around the corner, many in the United States are preparing for their upcoming summer vacations and other exciting outdoor activities, but coupled with the summer fun comes the return of the pesky and potentially disease-ridden mosquito.
Atlanta is ranked number one for the top 20 worst mosquito cities in the country, according to a recent report released by the pest control experts at Orkin.
The list ranks cities based on the number of customers who hired Orkin to perform a mosquito treatment in 2014.
"Mosquitoes can still be a major health concern during the summer, whether your city is on our list or not, so it's important for people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites no matter where they live," according to Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
Harrison is an entomologist and Orkin's technical services director.
June, July and August are prime mosquito months in most areas, according to Orkin.
Of the top 20 cities ranked, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Houston, Raleigh, N.C., Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., are in the lead. Nine of the top 20 fall within the Southeast region.
"Hot, moist environments are most amenable to mosquito growth and survival," Harrison said.
Mosquito infestations can occur in tropical areas or even in transient waters such as floodwater, ditches and woodland pools.
"Mosquitoes prefer stagnant water within which to lay their eggs," he said. "That's why cities like Atlanta with steady rain and hot temperatures are so high on our list."
As of May 28, Atlanta had received a total of 4.19 inches of rain or the month of May, slightly above the normal of 3.33 inches through May 28, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Andy Mussoline.
Even for those living in mosquito-prone areas, there are some actions people can take to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in their yards.
"The most important way to prevent mosquitoes is to eliminate any standing water outside your home," Harrison said, adding that mosquitoes only need a small amount of water, or just a few inches, to breed.
Standing water can be drained from bird baths, flower planters as well as toys and playground equipment.
It is also important to clean gutters and downspouts regularly or cover them with mesh to help prevent leaves and debris from collecting and holding water.
"Make sure screens around the home, both on windows and doors, fit tightly and have no holes to help keep mosquitoes from making their way into the house," he said.
In addition, adult mosquitoes need dense vegetation to survive.
Harrison said thick vegetation protects the mosquitoes when wind blows, but if people thin out the vegetation, the wind will reduce the mosquito population.
"Mosquitoes are also relatively weak fliers, so they can't fly through the wind that is common in coastal cities," he said.
Mosquito infestations can be a major health concern during the summer months across the U.S.
"While some people have no reaction to mosquito bites, others get itchy welts or suffer allergic reactions from mosquito bites," Harrison said.
Mosquitoes can also spread diseases, which means families need to take precautions against mosquitoes when outdoors in their own yards and out and about or traveling, he added.
Mosquito bites can transmit West Nile virus and other conditions that cause encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus has been detected in all lower 48 states, but not in Hawaii or Alaska.
"Outbreaks have been occurring every summer since 1999," Harrison said. "The risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities because of greater exposure to mosquitoes."
The Asian tiger and yellow fever mosquitoes can also spread Chikungunya virus.
"Chikungunya virus is a greater concern to people traveling to the Caribbean and other destinations where the virus is common, but there is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers," he said, stating that Florida had dozens of reports of the virus in travelers last year.
The two species that can carry and spread Chikungunya virus are common in the southern United States.
In order to protect yourself from mosquito bites, Harrison suggests applying an EPA-registered insect repellent before heading outside.
When outdoors, it is also important to wear long sleeves and pants during dusk and dawn, which is the prime time for mosquito activity. Mosquitoes can also bite through tight clothing.
"There is no cure or vaccine for West Nile virus or Chikungunya virus, which is why it's so important to prevent mosquito bites," Harrison said.
3. Washington, D.C.
6. Raleigh, N.C.
8. Dallas Fort-Worth
9. Charlotte, N.C.
10. Nashville, Tenn.
11. Memphis, Tenn.
12. Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Mich.
13. Miami-Fort Lauderdale
14. Richmond-Petersburg, Va.
15. Minneapolis-St. Paul
16. New York City
17. Cleveland-Akron, Ohio
18. Greenville - Spartanburg, S.C., and Asheville, N.C.
19. Albany - Schenectady - Troy, N.Y.
20. Knoxville, Tenn.
List provided by Orkin.