Advance Warning! – Zika Virus Can Occur in New England

By Chris Williams on May 5, 2016.

We now have confirmation that a second mosquito is also capable of transmitting Zika virus in the U.S. This news is not a surprise but it is a concern because this mosquito, the Asian tiger mosquito, occurs right here in New England.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted disease that has been found to be responsible for birth defects in babies, resulting in small heads and brains with devastating consequences. Medical researchers are also tracing various neurological symptoms among adults to Zika virus infection. See Zika, Another Mosquito Disease to Worry About? 

We Have the Mosquitoes, Expect the Disease

The yellowfever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is the primary vector of Zika virus now running rampant through Latin America. In the U.S., this mosquito is found primarily in the southern coastal regions and it is expected that there will eventually be mosquito-transmitted cases of Zika in these regions, probably this summer. At present, the U.S. Zika cases are a result of international travel to Zika areas or sexual transmission from an infected traveler.

The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, was the primary vector of Zika virus during a 2007 outbreak of the disease in West Africa. Researchers in Mexico have now found the Zika virus in the Asian tiger mosquito for the first time in the Western Hemisphere. This finding increases the number of U.S. states potentially at risk since this mosquito can survive colder winters and is expected to occur in about 40 states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The Centers for Disease Control has a map showing the estimated potential U.S. range of both mosquito species.

Protect Yourself From All Mosquito Bites

While pregnant women and their unborn babies are at greatest risk from Zika virus, everyone needs to do what they can to prevent its spread. When one of these Aedes mosquitoes sucks the blood of a person who is infected with Zika virus, the mosquito is then capable of passing the disease on to the next person it bites.

There are two things that you can do on an individual basis that can make a difference: (1) eliminate standing water that mosquitoes breed in, and (2) protect your family from bites with insect repellent. Since these mosquitoes commonly lay eggs in natural and manmade containers that hold water, be diligent about looking for standing water and dumping it or draining it. See Worried About Mosquitoes for tips on how to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from your yard.

The Asian tiger mosquito is especially alarming because it bites during the daytime. Plan now to make insect repellent your companion this spring and summer whenever you’re in mosquito areas (see What’s the Best Insect Repellent?)

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