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NKY Health Dept. Begins Trapping Mosquitoes for Zika Monitoring

The Northern Kentucky Health Department is now conducting surveillance of mosquitoes in the area as part of an effort to combat the Zika virus.

SEE PREVIOUSLY: Fight the Bite: Protect Yourself from the Zika Virus at Home and Away

The Zika virus, which is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, usually features symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild, so many people might not realize they have been infected.

While all cases of Zika virus reported in the continental United States to date have been connected to travel (in individuals who were infected themselves while traveling or the virus was sexually transmitted from a person who traveled), the potential for Zika to be directly transmitted to mosquitoes and eventually to humans in the U.S.—and in Northern Kentucky—exists. 

Last month it was made known that Northern Kentucky had its first confirmed case of the virus.

Now, the Health Department is actively trapping mosquitoes for the purpose of monitoring.

Monitoring of local mosquitoes can help public health officials determine risk for Zika virus locally by looking at which species are circulating in the region, the agency said in a news release. When necessary, Northern Kentucky mosquitoes will also be tested for the presence of Zika. Traps have been set in Boone, Kenton, Campbell, and Grant Counties - the four counties that make up the Northern Kentucky Independent Health District.

Only certain species of mosquitoes are known to carry Zika—two types of the Aedes species, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

These species of mosquitoes ARE found in Northern Kentucky, but in relatively small numbers. The Aedes species are more common in tropical climates as they do not survive as well in climates with cold seasons.

Similar trapping was done to monitor for West Nile virus; however, this process is different in that:

  • Traps are designed to be more condusive to catching the Aedes mosquitoes (West Nile trapping aimed primarily at the Culex species ).
  • Traps are designed to collect mosquitoes during day and night—this is important because Aedes mosquitoes are active during day. Mosquitoes that carry West Nile are typically active at dawn/dusk.

Traps contain dry ice, CO2, and a light.

Mosquitoes are collected from the traps and then specially trained Health Department staff will sort by species. This information will be logged in a database.

Understanding which species of mosquitoes are circulating in our area can help us understand the risk of infection with Zika locally.

When it becomes necessary—most likely when there are significant numbers of Zika-infected mosquitoes found elsewhere in the U.S. or when there are significant numbers of humans who have not traveled outside the U.S. and are infected with Zika—then the Health Department will work with the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the University of Kentucky to have Northern Kentucky mosquitoes tested in the lab for the Zika virus.

-Staff report

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