Health Officials Set Up Mosquito Lab to Track Zika

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MCALLEN – Zika is a mosquito-borne virus transferred through the insect bites. The virus traveled thousands of miles from South America to Texas in less than two years.

In the Rio Grande Valley, specialists are using specific equipment to track how far the mosquitoes are traveling and how many of them there are.

Mosquito traps are pieced together in a lab at Texas A&M's School of Public Health. They work by sucking in mosquitoes, luring them in with carbon dioxide from a thermos.

Years ago scientists set traps similar to the ones currently used in a controlled experiment. They tracked mosquitoes from where they were born to where they ended up.

“We detected mosquitoes up to two miles. The third mile marker, we were not able to collect the mosquitoes because it was too windy,” city of McAllen Health Director Josh Ramirez said.

He said after hatching from a water source, the aedes aegypti mosquito typically travels a mile as it looks for a host.

The next generation may hatch at that new destination. But winds push the mosquitoes even further, like north from Mexico, which is why the aedes aegypti population is high.

“Generally from May to September, almost every day, the wind is from south or southeast,” KRGV Meteorologist Alan Shoemaker said.

Earlier this year, Tamaulipas confirmed its own case of Zika. Before that, in early 2015 the World Health Organizations received reports of the Zika virus in Brazil.

The virus is now in the Rio Grande Valley. It’s transmitted by the aedes aegypti and another species – the aedes albopictus.

The Centers for Disease Control is informing people Zika can spread through sex, birth and mosquito bites.

Ramirez said he’s not just concerned about how far mosquitoes can fly.

“The mosquito may die and might not be able to transmit the virus to anybody else,” he said.

Ramirez noted he’s much more concerned about a human carrier.

“They can be infected in Central America one morning, hop in a plane and travel to Dallas,” he said. “That’s more concerning to us.”

Health workers are currently working to stop that from happening as the Zika virus continues to spread.

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