Nebraska county health officials made a dire announcement this past week. A mosquito, known to carry and spread such deadly diseases as Zika virus, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya has been confirmed to have been found in the county.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), along with the Four Corners Health Department, stated on Tuesday that they had identified the mosquitoes known as Aedes aegypti in York County as well.
What makes these confirmations all that more alarming, is that these mosquitoes are typically found in more tropical climates, which baffles experts as to why they are now in Nebraska.
Reports indicate that the mosquitoes were confirmed after routine mosquito surveillance. The surveillance is conducted in an attempt to calculate how many mosquitoes carrying the deadly West Nile virus are currently residing within the state. However, from time to time, the traps will end up yielding totally unexpected results that may potentially impact public health.
The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known carriers and spreaders of Zika virus, as well as other potentially deadly illnesses. Dr. Tom Safranek, an epidemiologist for the state DHHS, stated: “the transmission of these pathogens would require a person currently infected with such a disease to be bitten by an Aedes aegypti mosquito and then that mosquito would need to bite another uninfected person."
This presents two vital points: the risk of infection is very low, and is contingent upon either the presence or arrival in the area of an individual who is already infected. Safranek went on to say that this makes the trapping and monitoring of mosquitoes in the area that more crucial. Through these efforts, the DHHS is more able to identify potential health implications, thusly allowing them to take the necessary precautions.
Officials and experts remind that the Aedes aegypti mosquito can only fly about 500 feet in distance, and is known only to bite humans during the day. It is not precisely known how the mosquitoes ended up in Nebraska, as they are indigenous to the area, but some speculate they may have arrived in the form of eggs attached to used tires.
As with all species of mosquitoes, the best method for preventing problems from occurring is to make sure to drain all standing water, as stagnant water is a known breeding ground for mosquitoes. As for individuals, they are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, as well as making use of DEET branded insect repellents.
So, what’s the verdict—you decide.
Will we soon hear reports of these mosquitoes in other states as well?