“It’s probably likely that we’ll see the Asian tiger mosquito, whether we’ll see the actual virus… we don’t know” says Keith Jarvi, University of Nebraska Entomologist.
The CDC says the Zika virus is ‘scarier’ than initially thought. With warmer temperatures on our door step, there are concerns about the movement of the mosquitoes and travelers who may bring the virus farther north into the United States.
“The mosquitoes that carry this disease are what we consider more urban mosquitoes. They like to lay their eggs in stagnant water, like rain barrels, rain gutters, old tires, anything that can hold water for maybe more than 5 days could breed these mosquitoes” says Keith Jarvi, University of Nebraska Entomologist.
There are two types of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. While both are tropical mosquitoes, one more commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito can survive cooler temperatures, allowing it to live farther north. Both Iowa and Nebraska have had these mosquitoes before, and have the potential to see them reappear as temperatures warm.
“I think it’s to the point that the Asian tiger mosquito is now probably established here, it doesn’t have to come up from the south. So, it may not survive very well, but we have enough survival that it will be here…We’ll be monitoring the mosquitoes as they come north. People will be checking to see if they’re carrying the virus” says Keith Jarvi, University of Nebraska Entomologist.
According to the CDC, there have been 346 travel associated Zika virus cases reported in the U.S., 32 were pregnant women. There have been no local mosquito-borne disease cases in the U.S.
“Typically it’s just a short term viral like illness with pink eye, maybe some joint stiffness, rash… and again it’s a short term viral like illness. And again, 80% of adults who get bit by the mosquito don’t even know that they’ve been infected” says Dr. Al Fleming, Maternal Fetal Medicine at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s.
Dr. Fleming says what is more alarming about the disease is the unknown consequences to a fetus if a pregnant woman gets bit.
“It’s now thought that maybe even later in pregnancy it may have some effects to the fetus, now the extent of that…we don’t know. Definitely early pregnancy exposure is thought to be the most damaging” says Dr. Al Fleming, Maternal Fetal Medicine at Unity Point Health St. Luke’s.
Both the entomologist and physician stressed being aware but not alarmed. Bug spray, long sleeves, and clearing out standing water are all ways to help prevent mosquito bites throughout the summer.