Drought in New England Making Zika Virus Threat Less Likely | NECN
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Drought in New England Making Zika Virus Threat Less Likely

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Weeks of drought in Massachusetts are reducing ponds to puddles and robbing some mosquitoes of breeding grounds, keeping the threat of some mosquito-borne illnesses lower. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016)

    Weeks of drought in Massachusetts are reducing ponds to puddles and robbing some mosquitoes of breeding grounds.

    "We're not seeing as many mosquitoes that rely on rainfall events, temporary pools in the woods," said Kaitlyn O'Donnell of Norfolk County Mosquito Control.

    Mosquitoes carrying eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, are among those that suffer during dry weather.

    "It suggests that EEE is not our greatest concern," said Dr. Catherine Brown of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

    Experts point out that the dry weather isn't bad news for all mosquitoes.

    Those carrying West Nile virus actually thrive. It's showed up in several Brookline mosquitoes this summer.

    On Wednesday, the town treated storm drains to kill mosquito larvae before West Nile can spread further. But cities and towns can't kill all potentially dangerous mosquitoes.

    That's where the state Department of Public Health comes in.

    "Just the state probably has 20-30 of these traps out at any given time," note the department's trapping specialists. "This little light bulb, even though it's not much, actually draws them in for their final demise," he adds while showing off a trap in Boston.

    The mosquitoes captured are tested regularly for both West Nile and Triple E.

    There's new testing being added this year as well.

    "This year, because of the interest in Zika, we really ramped up the surveillance that's being done," notes Dr. Brown.

    Testing for Zika carrying mosquitoes is much different than the traps used across most of the state.

    Instead of collecting adult insects, experts have to target breeding grounds.

    "Then you have to catch the eggs, hatch them out and identify the type of mosquitoes," she says.

    If the drought continues, it bodes well for keeping Zika out of New England.

    "In drier conditions we'd see less of that," says Kaitlyn O'Donnell back in Norfolk County.

    Regardless of the weather, state officials stress the risk of contracting Zika through a mosquito in Massachusetts is very low. They add that the species they are testing for is different than the species spreading Zika in South America and South Florida.

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