The Sneak-Attack Mosquito – The Atlantic

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That’s in part because the population of Aedes aegypti may extend much farther north than scientists originally thought. Cities in South Florida and along the Gulf Coast, as well as some areas of Arizona and California, are already known to host large Aedes aegypti populations, and researchers have identified at least 50 metro areas with meteorological conditions that are ideal for the species. But even beyond those areas, the CDC has revised one map to extend the distribution of Aedes aegypti, which in recent years has been found in pockets of Washington, D.C., New York, and even New England.

There’s also the question of the extent to which other mosquito species will be Zika vectors. Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is even more abundant in the United States than Aedes aegypti. In fact, many entomologists believe the tiger mosquito is quickly replacing Aedes aegypti. (However, one study found the two species often seem to co-exist just fine.)

“But most people believe Aedes albopictus won’t be as efficient [a vector] as Aedes aegypti, because it also feeds on other mammals and birds,” said Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. In other words, if the tiger mosquito is getting a good portion of its blood meals from horses and dogs, that means fewer opportunities for infected mosquitoes to spread disease among humans.

More concerning than the Asian tiger mosquito, Hotez told me, is the possibility that Culex mosquitoes might become effective vectors of Zika in the United States. The distribution of this species, which is also a vector for West Nile virus, is extensive in the United States, even in cooler regions. Preliminary research has indicated that transmission among Culex mosquitoes is possible in a lab setting, but more study is necessary.

“Transmission of Zika through Culex mosquitos may be possible,” Hotez said. “If that turns out to be the case, then we’re all totally screwed. There are massive numbers of them already. They’re so much more widespread.”

Already, public health officials are warning about a significant uptick in Zika cases in the months to come. Marie-Paule Kieny, the assistant director of the WHO, said in a press conference on Monday that a combination of local transmission and sexual transmission of the virus poses the risk of a “global emergency.”

“The mosquito knows no border,” she said.

The Sneak-Attack Mosquito – The Atlantic