February 16, 2016

Penn State study wants to find if U.S.-native mosquitoes can transmit Zika

Only two types of mosquitoes are known to spread the Zika virus, but a researcher at Penn State University wants to find out if other species — ones native to the United States — can carry the infection as well.

"I don't think we can afford to wait," professor Jason Rasgon told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rasgon plans to test around 10 mosquito species, most of them present in Pennsylvania, to see if any can spread the Zika virus. His research will confirm whether Zika should be a concern in Pennsylvania, or if it's only an issue for those who plan to visit more tropical climates.

Related story: Philadelphia residents unlikely to contract Zika virus

The two species that have been confirmed to spread Zika are the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). Both are rarely if ever seen in Pennsylvania, although they are more common in southern states, particularly Florida.

Zika used to be considered a non-issue, since most people don't show any symptoms of the virus and those who do usually recover after a week.

However, once researchers began to suspect that there was a link between Zika and an outbreak of birth defects in Brazil, the World Health Organization declared that it posed a global health threat.

Read the full story here.