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Onondaga County monitoring for Zika-carrying mosquitoes

Army Medicine
The Aedes aegypti mosquito

Onondaga County’s yearly mosquito testing program has started for the season. For the first time, the county is on the lookout for the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Every May since 1972, Onondaga County begins setting out weekly traps through the summer that monitor the insect, as part of the mosquito surveillance and control program. The bothersome bugs are counted and a portion sent to the New York State Department of Health to be tested for mosquito-borne viruses – specifically Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus.

But with growing concern about the Zika virus, Onondaga County environmental health director Lisa Letteney says the county ordered a couple of extra traps this year that specifically attract the Aedes mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.

"Normally we have carbon dioxide which attracts the mosquitoes. But with these BG2 traps, it’s called a human scent lure. And supposedly this attracts Aedes mosquitoes. It’s kind of newish, but we’ll see if that works."

The Aedes mosquito, which carries Zika, are generally found in warmer climates. Centers for Disease Control maps show the Aedes aegypti as far north as the metro New York City area. Letteney says if these were already in central New York, they would have turned up by now.

"They’re small container breeders. So they’re more likely to be in tire piles, or planters that are overturned. So they’re more of a house mosquito, maybe a neighborhood mosquito, so in that case if they turn up, and we’re not expecting them to, they wouldn’t be in a swampy area,” said Letteney.

Mosquitoes that carry EEE or West Nile are generally found in more swampy areas. Officials say using bug spray and eliminating standing water on property are two of the best ways to keep the pesky insects at bay.

Zika virus burst on the scene in Central and South America after a connection was made between the virus and a rash of birth defects.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.