While the current Zika Virus epidemics in the world are primarily being advanced by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, scientists are researching to figure out which other mosquito species are capable of carrying and transmitting the virus. They have confirmed the Aedes Albopictus (Asian Tiger) mosquito as a vector, but there are a great deal more mosquito species still in question. With 51 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. With world-travel being what it is today (especially if we discover other mosquito species carry and transmit Zika) 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. While we await more research and the onset of mosquito season to determine what may or may not happen in Massachusetts, we will continue to share with you what we do know.
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. So if you thought because we are in the north, we are safe from Zika Virus, you might be mistaken.
The Next Steps
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? This means Colombia and Brazil may start using bed nets to slow the spread of Zika by Culex mosquitoes. It also means they will have to begin treating sewage water with larvicide along with the treatment of clean standing water.
While the Culex mosquito is not the only family of mosquito species we need to worry about, it is evidence of what ongoing studies may still discover about the next breed researched.
We are committed to providing you the best information for staying up-to-date on the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses in the Central Massachusetts area. Stay tuned for the latest local mosquito news. Don’t forget, to limit the population of mosquitoes on your property, follow the 5T’s of mosquito control.