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Another Common Mosquito May Carry Zika Virus, Scientists Say

​C. quinquefasciatus inhabits the southern U.S.

New research indicates that another common mosquito may be able to carry the Zika virus, according to a Reuters report. The mosquito species Aedes aegypti is considered to be the main transmitter of Zika infections, but scientists in Brazil have announced that they were able to infect another species, Culex quinquefasciatus, with the virus in a laboratory. In Brazil, C. quinquefasciatus is 20 times more common than Ae. aegypti, the researchers said.

If mosquitoes besides Ae. aegypti were found to transmit Zika infections in large numbers, it could make it more difficult to contain the current Zika outbreak that the World Health Organization last month declared a global public health emergency, according to the Reuters article.

Besides Brazil, C. quinquefasciatus also exists in more temperate climes, including the southern U.S., where it is known to carry the West Nile virus and can survive winters. Unlike Ae. aegypti, C. quinquefasciatus could keep a virus in circulation during cold months.

Although Culex mosquitoes prefer to feed on the blood of birds, they also bite people, especially in rural areas. That means that targeted pesticide use and other mosquito-control efforts for that species, which rests in trees and other high areas, would need to be different from those for Ae. aegypti, which rests in low spots, often indoors, according to Reuters.

If Culex mosquitoes were indeed proven to transmit Zika, “it would really complicate the public health issue,” said Dr. Grayson Brown, director of the University of Kentucky’s public health entomology laboratory.

Source: Reuters; March 4, 2016.

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