“While the chillier temperatures in the Borderland mean a decrease in the mosquito population, UTEP’s Mosquito Ecology and Surveillance Laboratory is taking no breaks this winter to study the Zika virus.
“Researchers at the university were busy trapping mosquitos and monitoring the population density of vector species along the U.S./Mexico border during the spring and summer months.
“Dr. Watts has spent the last four decades studying mosquitos. He tells NewsChannel 9, four out of five people never know they have Zika when they get infected.
“As of November 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports there are 4,497 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and 33,258 in U.S. Territories.
“In Texas, state officials say there are 257 cases.
“The leader of the CDC Zika Response Team in Texas reached out to UTEP scientists last week to learn more about their research and surveillance data.
“Dr. Watts says the CDC is interested in the university’s research because it will help to better understand how well prepared the border region is in fighting Zika transmission.
“CDC officials reached out to UTEP after the first case of the Zika virus, likely transmitted by a mosquito, was discovered in Brownsville last week.
“The research team went to the Rio Grande Valley over the summer to test its mosquitoes.
“Dr. Watts tells us his group is proud to be contributing to the state’s efforts in finding out where the risk for Zika is.
“’I’m happy to see this kind of project because it gives the mosquito control programs a big advantage that if they know where Aedes aegypti is, they could target their efforts. If they don’t know, they’re shooting in the dark,’ he adds.
“Aedes aegypti is the mosquito that can spread dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.
The UTEP team traps mosquitos twice a week in El Paso at 12 different locations.
“’Being out in the field, trapping every week, identifying the mosquitoes, testing them to see what viruses are there – if you detect a virus and if you have a good mosquito control program – you can actually prevent the spread of the virus,’ said Dr. Watts.
“Researchers will continue their work this winter, despite a decrease in the mosquito population. The team will now analyze the data collected over the summer.”
Source: El Paso Proud KTSM News