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Rare mosquito that can carry Zika, dengue and yellow fever discovered in Nebraska for first time

Rare mosquito that can carry Zika virus, dengue and yellow fever is discovered in Nebraska for the first time

  • Health officials discovered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in York County, Nebraska on Tuesday
  • A. aegypti are known to carry diseases like Zika virus, dengue and yellow fever
  • The mosquitoes have not been tested for the viruses that cause these diseases, but officials say the transmission risk is low
  • It is theorized that the mosquitoes came in from another state as eggs 

A rare mosquito that can carry Zika virus, dengue and yellow fever has been discovered in Nebraska for the first time.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said that it found Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in York County – about 100 miles from the capital of Omaha – on Tuesday.  

State and local officials captured the mosquitoes during an annual effort to track the number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus in Nebraska, according to a release.  

Despite the fear of tropical diseases spreading throughout the state, health officials say that the risk of transmission is very low.

Health officials say they discovered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – known to carry Zika virus – in York County, Nebraska, on Tuesday. Pictured: One of the mosquitoes found in Nebraska

A. aegypti originated in Africa, but has since become one of the most widespread mosquito species in the world.

According to the Nebraska DHHS, it bites primarily in the daytime and only feeds on people.  

‘A. aegypti can carry and transmit various diseases that can have serious health consequences…and that is of concern to public health officials,’ said Dr Tom Safranek, state epidemiologist for the DHHS, in a statement.

The mosquitoes have not been tested yet to see if they carry the viruses that cause those diseases.

However, Dr Safranek said that for a mosquito to transmit the diseases, it would need to bite an infected person, and then bite an uninfected person. 

Additionally A. aegypti can only fly about 500 feet.  

‘The risk of these infections to local residents is low but also dependent on the presence or arrival of an infected individual in the area,’ Dr Safranek added.

He told the Omaha World-Herald that health officials were surprised when they found three or four of the A. aegypti mosquitoes in traps meant for West Nile-mosquitoes.

When they went back and set up traps meant for Zika-mosquitoes, they captured around 40 of them.  

‘It was really kind of a surprise,’ Dr Safranek told the newspaper. ‘We just never thought it would really be an issue for us.’

One theory of how the mosquitoes arrive in Nebraska is in eggs from another state – but this has not been proven yet. 

In Nebraska, only one case of dengue fever and one case of Zika virus has been reported this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In both instances, the patients traveled to areas where the viruses are common, and were not infected locally. 

Health officials recommend that resident protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and pants as well as bug spray when going outside.

They also suggest draining any standing water because mosquitoes are attracted to still water.  

The Nebraska DHHS did not immediately return’s request for comment.    


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