Could Zika virus return to the US?Posted by Mosquito Squad
December 19, 2023
An outbreak a few years ago fostered much fear and conversation surrounding the threat of Zika virus. Many of those conversations were about which mosquito was the carrier. Is there only one “Zika mosquito?”
While Zika virus cases around the world are primarily being advanced by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, scientists are researching to determine which other mosquito species could carry and transmit the virus. They have confirmed the Aedes Albopictus (Asian Tiger) mosquito as a vector, but there is a great deal more mosquito species still in question. With more than 50 mosquito species in Massachusetts, we may be at greater risk for Zika than we think.
The Trouble with Labeling a Single Zika Mosquito
The Zika virus is an especially dangerous mosquito-borne illness in that it can be transmitted from human to mosquito. Like malaria, this can create a fast-spreading regional epidemic. Even though world-travel has slowed in the wake of COVID-19, all it will take is a few travelers bringing Zika to the U.S. during mosquito season to cause a rapid spread of the disease. Especially if we discover other mosquito species carry and transmit this rare, but awful affliction.
Could the Culex mosquito transmit Zika?
Researchers in Brazil have discovered mosquitoes from the Culex family are capable of being infected with Zika. The Culex family is much more common in the United States and the world. These scientists say the mosquitoes can also reproduce the virus in the salivary glands which is vital for being able to transmit the virus to humans. In Massachusetts, we have 4 species of the family Culex; Culex territans, Culex salinarius, Culex restuans and Culex pipiens, and 3 species of the family Aedes; Aedes Albopictus, Aedes cinereus, and Aedes vexans.
Arm yourself with effective Grafton mosquito control.
If there have been no confirmed Zika cases in the US for the last three years, why should we worry? Simply because we should never adopt a false sense of security surrounding any rare mosquito-borne illness. Out of sight should not mean out of mind. The fact that we have had Zika in the United States before should tell us that it can happen again. And even without the immediate threat of Zika virus, Central Mass mosquito control should remain a priority for residents.
- With fewer mosquitoes, the threat of all mosquito-borne illnesses becomes even less. Professional mosquito control is a must from spring through fall in Central MA.
- There have been other mosquito virus outbreaks in our region, which have been contained, however not eliminated.
- We have 50+ species of mosquitoes in our area, some of which may not be present in South America, so it may not be known if other species can transmit.
Knowledge is power, and research will dictate new protection protocols.
The world awaits further studies geared towards discovering whether Culex mosquitoes are becoming infected in the wild. If they are determined to be an important vector of Zika, the mosquito control methods being employed by government and world agencies will have to be altered. The difference in mosquito behavior and habitat is a key element in controlling mosquitoes and slowing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. While the currently known vectors in the Aedes family are aggressive day feeders that like fresh water, the Culex family feed at dawn & dusk and primarily like dirty water or sewage water. What does this mean? At-risk areas worldwide, such as Brazil and Colombia, will have to protect themselves 24/7 from the threat of Zika infection from Culex mosquitoes. One way this is done is by using mosquito nets for sleeping. It also means they will have to begin treating sewage water with larvicide along with the treatment of clean standing water.
If you are planning a trip to South America and are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, please do your Internet research at the CDC website Zika page and the World Health Organization (WHO) Zika website page. It is highly advisable that any pregnant person seek medical clearance from their physician before traveling abroad.
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