Scientists Survey for Mosquitoes Able to Carry Zika Virus | NECN
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Scientists Survey for Mosquitoes Able to Carry Zika Virus

Researchers are concerned that non-native mosquitoes and their larvae are able to travel on car tires and on shipping containers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    After Zika virus has spread in Florida, researchers have concerns that mosquitoes will spread north. (Published Friday, Aug. 5, 2016)

    Scientists in New England are keeping a close eye on mosquitoes here, after the Zika virus has spread to Florida.

    The type of insect that can carry the Zika virus is not native to New England, but the concern is that the mosquito species will spread north, and arrive via automobile or ship.

    "These mosquitoes, if they were to come to Maine, would come in through human transport," said Chuck Lubelczyk, a Vector Ecologist at Maine Medical Center's Vector Borne Disease Lab.

    Port cities, like Portland, Maine are especially vulnerable. Researchers are concerned that non-native mosquitoes and their larvae are able to travel on car tires and on shipping containers.

    It has happened before.

    "Back in the 1990s, there was a mosquito introduced from Eurasia to the mid-Atlantic via shipping containers," said Lubelczyk. "It is now established all the way from Florida, to Aroostook County."

    Lubelczyk said the kind of mosquito able to carry Zika has already been established in small pockets of coastal Massachusetts, so it's not a stretch to imagine those mosquitoes being able to spread throughout the region.

    "We do have the potential for this to happen, and the hope is we don't find them here," he said.

    Scientists are spending time each week looking.

    A team from the Vector Borne Disease Lab has set up traps with mosquito bait, hidden around Portland.

    They are black solo cups (labeled as mosquito research equipment) filled with a liquid attractive to the insects: water, leaves, and dog kibble.

    "It's great breeding ground for mosquitoes," said Lubelczyk.

    The mosquitoes lay their eggs inside the cup, the researchers collect the eggs, and with the help of fish food, grow them and hatch them in the lab.

    There, the mosquitoes can be identified.


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